Category Archives: Presidential Politics

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren’s Plan to Transform America’s Approach to Trade

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade.  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan to transform America’s approach to trade: “Trade can be a powerful tool to help working families but our failed pro-corporate agenda has used trade to harm American workers and the environment. My plan represents a new approach to trade — one that uses America’s leverage to boost American workers and raise the standard of living across the globe. The President has a lot of authority to remake trade policy herself. When I’m elected, I intend to use it.” Here are the details, as provided by the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade. 

America enters trade negotiations with enormous leverage because it is the world’s most attractive market. A Warren Administration won’t hand that leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes. Elizabeth will use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. Under Elizabeth’s plan, America will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families. 

The plan is the third pillar of Elizabeth’s 
economic patriotism agenda. Read more about her plan here and below:
 

Last month, I released my economic patriotism agenda — my commitment to fundamentally changing the government’s approach to the economy so that we put the interests of American workers and families ahead of the interests of multinational corporations. I’ve already released my ideas for applying economic patriotism to manufacturing and to Wall Street. This is my plan for using economic patriotism to overhaul our approach to trade.

For decades, big multinational corporations have bought and lobbied their way into dictating America’s trade policy. Those big corporations have gotten rich but everyone else has paid the price. We’ve lost millions of jobs to outsourcing, depressed wages for American workers, accelerated climate change, and squeezed America’s family farmers. We’ve let China get away with the suppression of pay and labor rights, poor environmental protections, and years of currency manipulation. All to add some zeroes to the bottom lines of big corporations with no loyalty or allegiance to America.

We need to completely transform our approach to trade. America enters into trade negotiations with enormous leverage because America is the world’s most attractive market. As President, I won’t hand America’s leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes — I’ll use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. We will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families.

A New Approach to Trade

My plan is a new approach to trade — one that is different from both the Washington insider consensus that brought us decades of bad trade deals and from Donald Trump’s haphazard and ultimately corporate-friendly approach.

Unlike the insiders, I don’t think “free trade” deals that benefit big multinational corporations and international capital at the expense of American workers are good simply because they open up markets. Trade is good when it helps American workers and families — when it doesn’t, we need to change our approach. And unlike Trump, while I think tariffs are an important tool, they are not by themselves a long-term solution to our failed trade agenda and must be part of a broader strategy that this Administration clearly lacks.

To ensure that American families benefit from international trade in the decades to come, I want to invest in American workers and to use our leverage to force other countries to raise the bar on everything from labor and environmental standards to anti-corruption rules to access to medicine to tax enforcement. If we raise the world’s standards to our level and American workers have the chance to compete fairly, they will thrive — and millions of people around the world will be better off too.

Achieving this vision isn’t about tough talk or tweets. We must do the hard work of transforming every aspect of our current approach to trade: from our negotiating process to the negotiating objectives we pursue to the way we enforce agreements. That’s what I intend to do.

A Trade Negotiation Process that Reflects America’s Interests

Our current approach to negotiating trade agreements works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. The negotiating text is kept confidential from all but a small set of advisory groups comprised mostly of corporate executives and industry trade group representatives. Once those corporate interests are finished whispering in the ears of our negotiators, the completed text is released. Then, under the expedited “Fast Track” procedure Congress typically uses to approve trade agreements, our elected representatives must vote up or down on the agreement with no ability to propose and secure any changes to it. Meanwhile, the negotiators who constructed it often breeze through the revolving door to take jobs with the corporations whose interests underlie the deal.

This is undemocratic and obviously corrupt. In a Warren Administration, we will negotiate and approve trade agreements through a transparent process that offers the public a genuine chance to shape it:

Trade negotiators will publicly disclose negotiating drafts and provide the public with an opportunity to comment. When federal agencies write new rules, they typically must publish a proposed version of the rule and permit the public to submit comments on it. I will adopt a similar approach for our trade deals. Prior to negotiations, our negotiators will publish a draft of their proposals in the Federal Register, let the public offer comments on the draft, and take those comments into consideration during negotiations. And then as talks proceed, they will publish drafts of the negotiating texts so the public can monitor the negotiations.
 

Trade advisory committees will prioritize the views of workers and consumers. I will ensure that there are more representatives from labor, environmental, and consumer groups than from corporations and trade groups on every existing advisory committee. And I’ll expand the current list of advisory committees to create one for consumers, one for rural areas, and one for each region of the country, so that critical voices are at the table during negotiations.  

The US International Trade Commission will provide a regional analysis of the economic effects of a trade agreement. Trade agreements can hollow out communities and transform regional economies. Yet the report the ITC provides before Congress considers a trade agreement only includes a nationwide analysis of a trade deal’s economic impact. I will push for the agency to provide a region-by-region analysis so the public and Members of Congress can understand how an agreement is likely to affect the places they live and represent.  

The congressional approval process will offer more opportunities for the public and elected representatives to shape trade agreements. I will seek expedited congressional approval of trade agreements only when every regional advisory committee and the labor, consumer, and rural advisory committees unanimously certify that the agreement serves their interests. I will also expand the list of congressional committees that must review any agreement before it is eligible for expedited consideration.

Together, these changes will ensure that our negotiations reflect the views of American families, not corporate interests.

Using Our Leverage to Demand More for American Families and to Raise the Global Standard of Living

While a better process will produce better agreements, we also must fundamentally shift the goals of our trade agenda so they are aligned with the interests of America’s families.

With certain important exceptions, we live in a low-tariff world. Modern trade agreements are less about the mutual reduction of tariffs and more about establishing regulatory standards for everything from worker rights to pollution to patent protections.

My approach to trade reflects that reality. For too long, we have entered into trade deals with countries with abysmal records on laborenvironmental, and human rights issues. In exchange for concrete access to the American market, we get vague commitments to do better, which we then hardly enforce. The result is that millions of people in our trading-partner countries don’t gain the benefits of higher standards — and companies can easily pad their profits by shifting American jobs to countries where they can pay workers next to nothing and pollute the air and water freely.

That will end under my Administration. I am establishing a set of standards countries must meet as a precondition for any trade agreement with America. And I will renegotiate any agreements we have to ensure that our existing trade partners meet those standards as well.

My preconditions are that a country must:

Recognize and enforce the core labor rights of the International Labour Organization, like collective bargaining and the elimination of child labor.  

Uphold internationally recognized human rights, as reported in the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights, including the rights of indigenous people, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups.  

Recognize and enforce religious freedom as reported in the State Department’s Country Reports.  

Comply with minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  

Be a party to the Paris Climate agreement and have a national plan that has been independently verified to put the country on track to reduce its emissions consistent with the long-term emissions goals in that agreement.  

Eliminate all domestic fossil fuel subsidies.  

Ratify the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.  

Comply with any tax treaty they have with the United States and participate in the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project to combat tax evasion and avoidance.  

Not appear on the Department of Treasury monitoring list of countries that merit attention for their currency practices.

A country should only be considered an acceptable partner if it meets these basic standards. Shamefully, America itself does not meet many of these labor and environmental standards today. I am committed to fixing that as President. And to help bring other countries up to these standards, I’ll revitalize our commitment to providing technical assistance to help countries improve.

I will also go beyond these minimum standards in key areas to promote the interests of American workers and families.

LaborI will ensure trade agreements protect Buy American and other programs designed to develop local industry, contain strong rule-of-origin standards to promote domestic manufacturing, protect worker pensions, promote equal pay for equal work for women, and prohibit violence against workers. Unlike previous trade deals agreements that have put labor standards in side agreements that are difficult to enforce, I will make labor standards central to any agreement.

Climate Change and the Environment. Climate change is real, it’s man-made, and we’re running out of time to address it. America should be leading this fight, but we have turned our backs on our responsibilities — with communities of color in the U.S. and developing countries bearing a disproportionate amount of the harm.

Trump is moving us in the wrong direction — withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, renegotiating NAFTA without even a mention of climate change, and handing special carve outs to oil and gas companies.

Beyond requiring implementation of the Paris Climate accord and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies as preconditions for any trade agreement, I have already proposed a Green Marshall Plan to dedicate $100 billion to helping other countries purchase and deploy American-made clean energy technology.

But we must do more. I will push to secure a multilateral agreement to protect domestic green policies like subsidies for green products and preferential treatment for environmentally sustainable energy production from WTO challenges. And because big corporations will move their production to the countries with the weakest greenhouse gas emissions standards — undermining global efforts to address climate change and penalizing countries that are doing their part — I will impose a border carbon adjustment so imported goods that these firms make using carbon-intensive processes are charged a fee to equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules.

Prescription Drugs. Last year, Americans spent more than $500 billion on prescription drugs. That’s a 50% increase since 2010. Nearly 3 in 10Americans report not taking their medicine as directed because of costs. And yet, one of the core elements of America’s current trade agenda is guaranteeing pharmaceutical firms monopoly protections so they can avoid competition from generic drugs — driving up costs and reducing access to necessary medicine abroad, and undermining our efforts to reduce drug prices here at home. That’s exactly what the Trump Administration has done as part of their failed effort to renegotiate NAFTA.

While medical innovation is important, there is no link between extremely long exclusivity periods and pharmaceutical innovation. These are giveaways to drug companies, plain and simple, which allow them to maintain ludicrously high drug prices.

As President, I will fight to bring down the costs of prescription drugs here and around the world. I will never use America’s leverage to push another country to extend exclusivity periods for prescription drugs. I will support efforts to impose price controls on pharmaceuticals. And I will actively seek out opportunities to reduce exclusivity periods in our existing trade deals in exchange for securing other changes that will help America’s working families.

Agriculture. For decades, trade deals have squeezed family farmers, with Black farmers losing their land particularly quickly. Between the trade fights incited by Trump’s haphazard tariffs and a series of natural disasters, America’s farmers are now facing the worst crisis in almost 40 years. They are also facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and instability. Trump’s tariffs have reduced crop prices, threatened farmers already operating on razor-thin margins, and opened up new non-American markets against which our farmers are now forced to compete. Like trade deals of the past, Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 is written to help giant multinational agribusinesses at the expense of family farms, and it will do nothing to solve the newly created market insecurity Trump’s tariffs have caused.

As President, I will fight for trade agreements that reward American farmers for their hard work by negotiating for fair prices for goods, breaking up the monopolies in grain trading and meat packing, and protecting domestic markets to create stability for America’s family farms. And I will impose Country-of-Origin Labeling rules to protect American producers and provide transparency to consumers.

Consumer protection. We must ensure that the food we eat is high-quality and safe. But our trade agreements have limited safety standards and the inspection of imported foods, while simultaneously enabling a new flood of food imports that overwhelm food safety inspectors. In my Administration, our trade pacts will require imported food to meet domestic food safety standards, including enhanced border inspection requirements.

As with imported food, our current trade deals require us to allow imports of other products and services that do not meet domestic safety and environmental standards. My trade agreements will ensure that imported products and services must meet the same standards as domestic products and services.

Antitrust. We are in an era of massive consolidation across many sectors of the economy. One of the reasons why is that we have a narrow, permissive approach to mergers that looks only at economic efficiency and consumer welfare instead of assessing the impact that a merger will have on competition itself.

In recent years, we have added this problematic standard into trade agreements and proposed it as the defining objective for competition policy in new and renegotiated agreements. Under my administration, we will not propose this standard in any new agreement, and we will work to renegotiate agreements to remove it.

Delivering for American Families with Stronger Enforcement

Our approach to enforcing trade agreements drives down standards worldwide and undermines American families. We offer big corporations fast and powerful methods to enforce the provisions that benefit them but make it nearly impossible for Americans to enforce labor and environmental protections. Foreign governments only fear a challenge to strong rules that might hurt corporate bottom lines, not to weak rules that might not adequately protect workers, the environment, or public health.

I will entirely reorient our approach to enforcement so we drive standards up, not down. I’ll start by ending “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS, the favorable enforcement approach we offer corporations. Under ISDS, a company that believes that a new law violates some aspect of a trade agreement can skip the courts and challenge the law before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company wins, the panel can order that country’s taxpayers to pay out billions in damages — with no review by an actual court. What’s worse, the arbitration panels handing out these binding rulings are often made up of corporate lawyers whose day jobs are representing the very same companies that seek judgments before them.

Companies have used ISDS to undermine laws intended to benefit the public interest. A French company challenged Egypt when it increased the minimum wage. A Swedish company challenged Germany when it decided to cut back on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. These cases have real effects across the globe: an ISDS panel’s decision to hear a challenge that Philip Morris brought against Uruguay’s anti-smoking campaign prompted several other countries to abandon similar public health efforts.

As President, I will not include ISDS in any new agreement and will renegotiate existing agreements to remove ISDS from them.

And I’ll strengthen our approach to enforcing labor and environmental standards. Unlike a corporation under ISDS, a labor union seeking to enforce labor standards can’t bring a claim on its own — it must convince the federal government to bring a claim on its behalf. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, our government can refuse to act for diplomatic or other unrelated reasons.

As a result, the federal government has only pursued one such claim in the last 25 years. In that one case, the American government, AFL-CIO, and Guatemalan unions spent nine years trying to challenge the Guatemalan government for violating the labor chapter of one of our trade deals because Guatemalan workers were being murdered for trying to join a union. In the end, we lost because the trade agreement required a showing that the violations had affected trade.

I will replace this broken process by creating independent commissions — made up of experts in the area — to monitor potential violations, respond to complaints, and investigate claims. The commissions must review and investigate claims promptly so that claims don’t languish for years. If one of these commissions recommends that the United States bring a claim against another country, the United States will be required to do so, without exception.

I will also fix the problem that arose in the Guatemala case by pushing to remove language from our deals that require us to show that a violation of rights was “sustained or recurring” and “affecting trade or investment.” A violation is a violation, and I won’t let another case like Guatemala happen ever again.

I will strengthen our enforcement approach in other ways as well:

Under WTO rules, a country designated as a “non-market economy” can face more serious trade penalties. I will push for a new “non-sustainable economy” designation that would allow us to impose tougher penalties on countries with systematically poor labor and environmental practices. We cannot allow countries that treat their workers and the environment poorly to undercut American producers that do things the right way.  

I already have a plan to move the lead American trade negotiator — the Office of the United States Trade Representative — within my new Department of Economic Development. That will ensure that America’s trade policy supports our broader economic agenda of defending and creating good American jobs. I will also create a new labor and environment enforcement division at the USTR to more effectively enforce obligations, and embed a labor attache at U.S. embassies to monitor compliance with our labor standards.  

Unlike the current approach that lets our government ignore unfair trade practices, my administration will create automatic triggers to initiate investigations into unfair trade practices. If those investigations produce compelling evidence of a violation, the Department will impose trade remedies immediately until the offenders show they are no longer engaging in an unfair trade practice. These automatic triggers will also apply to violations of labor and environmental standards.  

Finally, when we impose duties to support particular domestic industries, I want to ensure that the money we collect actually goes to American workers, instead of being sucked up by executives and shareholders. I will fight to change our trade laws so that we review duties every six months and lift the duties if companies can’t demonstrate the benefits of the duties are going to their workers.

Biden Plan for Universal Healthcare: Protect, Build on Obamacare

Vice President Joe Biden, in the race for the Democratic nomination for President, has staked out a position on improving on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as his solution to providing universal healthcare  – essentially, enabling people keep their private insurance but creating a new public option. That is more moderate than the Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who want a more extreme Medicare for All that replaces private insurance (though it is unlikely that there will not still be a market for supplemental private insurance, just as there is now for Medicare). Here, is the Biden campaign’s description and rationale for Biden’s plan to protect and build upon the Affordable Care Act: – Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Vice President Joe Biden, in the race for the Democratic nomination for President, has staked out a position on improving on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as his solution to providing universal healthcare  – essentially, enabling people keep their private insurance but creating a new public option. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, with Vice President Biden standing by his side, and made history. It was a victory 100 years in the making. It was the conclusion of a tough fight that required taking on Republicans, special interests, and the status quo to do what’s right. But the Obama-Biden Administration got it done.

Today, the Affordable Care Act is still a big deal. Because of Obamacare, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage. Roughly 20 million additional Americans obtained the peace of mind that comes with health insurance. Young people who are in transition from school to a job have the option to stay covered by their parents’ plan until age 26.

But, every day over the past nine years, the Affordable Care Act has been under relentless attack.

Immediately after its passage, Congressional Republicans began trying again and again to repeal it. Following the lead of President Trump, Republicans in Congress have only doubled down on this approach since January 2017. And, since repeal through Congress has not been working, President Trump has been unilaterally doing everything he can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to get the entire law – including protections for people with pre-existing conditions – struck down in court.

As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law – including efforts by Republicans, and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choicereducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.

For Biden, this is personal. He believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have access to affordable, quality health care. He knows that no one in this country should have to lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering, “what will I do if she gets breast cancer?” or “if he has a heart attack?” “Will I go bankrupt?” He knows there is no peace of mind if you cannot afford to care for a sick child or a family member because of a pre-existing condition, because you’ve reached a point where your health insurer says “no more,” or because you have to make a decision between putting food on the table and going to the doctor or filling a prescription.

In the coming months, Joe Biden will build on today’s plan by rolling out his proposals to tackle some of our greatest public health challenges – from reducing gun violence to curing devastating diseases as we know them like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and addiction.

I. GIVE EVERY AMERICAN ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE

From the time right before the Affordable Care Act’s key coverage-related policies went into effect to the last full year of the Obama-Biden Administration, 2016, the number of Americans lacking health insurance fell from 44 million to 27 million – an almost 40% drop. But President Trump’s persistent efforts to sabotage Obamacare through executive action, after failing in his efforts to repeal it through Congress, have started to reverse this progress. Since 2016, the number of uninsured Americans has increased by roughly 1.4 million.

As president, Biden will stop this reversal of the progress made by Obamacare. And he won’t stop there. He’ll also build on the Affordable Care Act with a plan to insure more than an estimated 97% of Americans. Here’s how:

Giving Americans a new choice, a public health insurance option like Medicare. If your insurance company isn’t doing right by you, you should have another, better choice. Whether you’re covered through your employer, buying your insurance on your own, or going without coverage altogether, the Biden Plan will give you the choice to purchase a public health insurance option like Medicare. As in Medicare, the Biden public option will reduce costs for patients by negotiating lower prices from hospitals and other health care providers. It also will better coordinate among all of a patient’s doctors to improve the efficacy and quality of their care, and cover primary care without any co-payments. And it will bring relief to small businesses struggling to afford coverage for their employees.

Increasing the value of tax credits to lower premiums and extend coverage to more working Americans. Today, families that make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level may receive a tax credit to reduce how much they have to pay for health insurance on the individual marketplace. The dollar amount of the financial assistance is calculated to ensure each family does not have to pay more than a certain percentage of their income on a silver (medium generosity) plan. But, these shares of income are too high and silver plans’ deductibles are too high. Additionally, many families making more than 400% of the federal poverty level (about $50,000 for a single person and $100,000 for a family of four), and thus not qualifying for financial assistance, still struggle to afford health insurance. The Biden Plan will help middle class families by eliminating the 400% income cap on tax credit eligibility and lowering the limit on the cost of coverage from 9.86% of income to 8.5%. This means that no family buying insurance on the individual marketplace, regardless of income, will have to spend more than 8.5% of their income on health insurance. Additionally, the Biden Plan will increase the size of tax credits by calculating them based on the cost of a more generous gold plan, rather than a silver plan. This will give more families the ability to afford more generous coverage, with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

Expanding coverage to low-income Americans. Access to affordable health insurance shouldn’t depend on your state’s politics. But today, state politics is getting in the way of coverage for millions of low-income Americans. Governors and state legislatures in 14 states have refused to take up the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility, denying access to Medicaid for an estimated 4.9 million adults. Biden’s plan will ensure these individuals get covered by offering premium-free access to the public option for those 4.9 million individuals who would be eligible for Medicaid but for their state’s inaction, and making sure their public option covers the full scope of Medicaid benefits. States that have already expanded Medicaid will have the choice of moving the expansion population to the premium-free public option as long as the states continue to pay their current share of the cost of covering those individuals. Additionally, Biden will ensure people making below 138% of the federal poverty level get covered. He’ll do this by automatically enrolling these individuals when they interact with certain institutions (such as public schools) or other programs for low-income populations (such as SNAP).

II. PROVIDE THE PEACE OF MIND OF AFFORDABLE, QUALITY HEALTH CARE AND A LESS COMPLEX HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Today, even for people with health insurance, our health care system is too expensive and too hard to navigate. The Biden Plan will not only provide coverage for uninsured Americans, it will also make health care more affordable and less complex for all. 
 
The plan’s elements described above will help reduce the cost of health insurance and health care for those already insured in the following ways:

All Americans will have a new, more affordable option. The public option, like Medicare, will negotiate prices with providers, providing a more affordable option for many Americans who today find their health insurance too expensive.

Middle class families will get a premium tax credit to help them pay for coverage. For example, take a family of four with an income of $110,000 per year. If they currently get insurance on the individual marketplace, because their premium will now be capped at 8.5% of their income, under the Biden Plan they will save an estimated $750 per month on insurance alone. That’s cutting their premiums almost in half. If a family is covered by their employer but can get a better deal with the 8.5% premium cap, they can switch to a plan on the individual marketplace, too.

Premium tax credits will be calculated to help more families afford better coverage with lower deductibles. Because the premium tax credits will now be calculated based on the price of a more generous gold plan, families will be able to purchase a plan with a lower deductible and lower out-of-pocket spending. That means many families will see their overall annual health care spending go down.

The Biden Plan has several additional proposals aimed directly at cutting the cost of health care and making the health care system less complex to navigate. The Biden Plan will:

Stop “surprise billing.” Consumers trying to lower their health care spending often try to choose an in-network provider. But sometimes patients are unaware they are receiving care from an out-of-network provider and a big, surprise bill. “Surprise medical billing” could occur, for example, if you go to an in-network hospital but don’t realize a specialist at that hospital is not part of your health plan. The Biden Plan will bar health care providers from charging patients out-of-network rates when the patient doesn’t have control over which provider the patient sees (for example, during a hospitalization).

Tackle market concentration across our health care system. The concentration of market power in the hands of a few corporations is occurring throughout our health care system, and this lack of competition is driving up prices for consumers. The Biden Administration will aggressively use its existing antitrust authority to address this problem.

Lower costs and improve health outcomes by partnering with the health care workforce. The Biden Administration will partner with health care workers and accelerate the testing and deployment of innovative solutions that improve quality of care and increase wages for low-wage health care workers, like home care workers.

III.  STAND UP TO ABUSE OF POWER BY PRESCRIPTION DRUG CORPORATIONS
 
Too many Americans cannot afford their prescription drugs, and prescription drug corporations are profiteering off of the pocketbooks of sick individuals. The Biden Plan will put a stop to runaway drug prices and the profiteering of the drug industry by:

Repealing the outrageous exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices. Because Medicare covers so many Americans, it has significant leverage to negotiate lower prices for its beneficiaries. And it does so for hospitals and other providers participating in the program, but not drug manufacturers. Drug manufacturers not facing any competition, therefore, can charge whatever price they choose to set. There’s no justification for this except the power of prescription drug lobbying. The Biden Plan will repeal the existing law explicitly barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.

Limiting launch prices for drugs that face no competition and are being abusively priced by manufacturers. Through his work on the Cancer Moonshot, Biden understands that the future of pharmacological interventions is not traditional chemical drugs but specialized biotech drugs that will have little to no competition to keep prices in check. Without competition, we need a new approach for keeping the prices of these drugs down. For these cases where new specialty drugs without competition are being launched, under the Biden Plan the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish an independent review board to assess their value. The board will recommend a reasonable price, based on the average price in other countries (a process called external reference pricing) or, if the drug is entering the U.S. market first, based on an evaluation by the independent board members. This reasonable price will be the rate Medicare and the public option will pay. In addition, the Biden Plan will allow private plans participating in the individual marketplace to access a similar rate.

Limiting price increases for all brand, biotech, and abusively priced generic drugs to inflation. As a condition of participation in the Medicare program and public option, all brand, biotech, and abusively priced generic drugs will be prohibited from increasing their prices more than the general inflation rate. The Biden Plan will also impose a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that increase the costs of their brand, biotech, or abusively priced generic over the general inflation rate.

Allowing consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries. To create more competition for U.S. drug corporations, the Biden Plan will allow consumers to import prescription drugs from other countries, as long as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has certified that those drugs are safe.

Terminating pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break for advertisement spending. Drug corporations spent an estimated $6 billion in 2016 alone on prescription drug advertisements to increase their sales, a more than four-fold increase from just $1.3 billion in 1997. The American Medical Association has even expressed “concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices.” Currently, drug corporations may count spending on these ads as a deduction to reduce the amount of taxes they owe. But taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these ads. As president, Biden will end this tax deduction for all prescription drug ads, as proposed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

Improving the supply of quality generics. Generics help reduce health care spending, but brand drug corporations have succeeded in preserving a number of strategies to help them delay the entrance of a generic into the market even after the patent has expired. The Biden Plan supports numerous proposals to accelerate the development of safe generics, such as Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposal to make sure generic manufacturers have access to a sample.

IV. ENSURE HEALTH CARE IS A RIGHT FOR ALL, NOT A PRIVILEGE FOR JUST A FEW
 
Joe Biden believes that every American – regardless of gender, race, income, sexual orientation, or zip code – should have access to affordable and quality health care. Yet racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination permeate our health care system just as in every other part of society. As president, Biden will be a champion for improving access to health care and the health of all by:

Expanding access to contraception and protect the constitutional right to an abortion. The Affordable Care Act made historic progress by ensuring access to free preventive care, including contraception. The Biden Plan will build on that progress. Vice President Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment because health care is a right that should not be dependent on one’s zip code or income. And, the public option will cover contraception and a woman’s constitutional right to choose. In addition, the Biden Plan will:

1) Reverse the Trump Administration and states’ all-out assault on women’s right to choose. As president, Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion, such as so-called TRAP laws, parental notification requirements, mandatory waiting periods, and ultrasound requirements.

2) Restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The Obama-Biden administration fought Republican attacks on funding for Planned Parenthood again and again. As president, Biden will reissue guidance specifying that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers that refer for abortions or provide related information and reverse the Trump Administration’s rule preventing Planned Parenthood and certain other family planning programs from obtaining Title X funds.

3) Just as the Obama-Biden Administration did, President Biden will rescind the Mexico City Policy (also referred to as the global gag rule) that President Trump reinstated and expanded. This rule currently bars the U.S. federal government from supporting important global health efforts – including for malaria and HIV/AIDS – in developing countries simply because the organizations providing that aid also offer information on abortion services.

Reducing our unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, which especially impacts people of color. Compared to other developed nations, the U.S. has the highest rate of deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth, and we are the only country experiencing an increase in this death rate. This problem is especially prevalent among black women, who experience a death rate from complications related to pregnancy that is more than three times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white women. California came up with a strategy that halved the state’s maternal death rate. As president, Biden will take this strategy nationwide.

Defending health care protections for all, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could increase premiums merely due to someone’s gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Further, insurance companies could increase premiums or deny coverage altogether due to someone’s HIV status. Yet, President Trump is trying to walk back this progress. For example, he has proposed to once again allow health care providers and insurance companies to discriminate based on a patient’s gender identity or abortion history. President Biden will defend the rights of all people – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity – to have access to quality, affordable health care free from discrimination.

Doubling America’s investment in community health centers. Community health centers  provide primary, prenatal, and other important care to underserved populations. The Biden Plan will double the federal investment in these centers, expanding access to high quality health care for the populations that need it most.

Achieving mental health parity and expanding access to mental health care. As Vice President, Biden was a champion for efforts to implement the federal mental health parity lawimprove access to mental health care, and eliminate the stigma around mental health. As President, he will redouble these efforts to ensure enforcement of mental health parity laws and expand funding for mental health services.

In the months ahead, Biden will put forward additional plans to tackle health challenges affecting specific communities, including access to health care in rural communities, gun violence, and opioid addiction.

SUPPORTING HEALTH, NOT REWARDING WEALTH

Joe Biden believes in rewarding work, not just wealth – and investing in hard-working Americans’ health, not protecting the most privileged Americans’ wealth. Warren Buffett said it best when he stated that he should not pay a lower tax rate than his secretary.
 
The Biden Plan will make health care a right by getting rid of capital gains tax loopholes for the super wealthy. Today, the very wealthy pay a tax rate of just 20% on long-term capital gains. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the capital gains and dividends exclusion is the second largest tax expenditure in the entire tax code: $127 billion in fiscal year 2019 alone. As President, Biden will roll back the Trump rate cut for the very wealthy and restore the 39.6% top rate he helped restore when he negotiated an end to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in 2012. Biden’s capital gains reform will close the loopholes that allow the super wealthy to avoid taxes on capital gains altogether. The Biden plan will assure those making over $1 million will pay the top rate on capital gains, doubling the capital gains tax rate on the super wealthy.

WATCH: Joe Biden talks more about the need to build on and protect ACA in THIS new video.

See also: Biden Gives Speech on Foreign Policy that Defines His Quest for Presidency

Senator Klobuchar Proposes ‘Progress Partnerships’ To Boost Education

US Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota during the first Democratic Debate for the Presidential nomination © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Senator Klobuchar’s mom taught second grade until she was 70 years and she was also a proud teachers’ union member who walked the picket line in the 1951 teachers’ strike. As the daughter of a teacher and union member, Senator Klobuchar understands that a good education is a basic right of every child and that all Americans should have the educational opportunities they need to succeed in today’s economy. 

During the presidential campaign, Senator Klobuchar has announced plans to fully fund education and our schools, make a historic investment in increasing teacher pay, close the opportunity gap, fully fund the IDEA, boost STEM education and apprenticeship opportunities, and rebuild our crumbling school infrastructure. 

In addition to her already announced plans, Senator Klobuchar is announcing at the 2019 National Education Association Presidential Forum an additional proposal —  new federal-state school “Progress Partnerships” that will allow states to take aggressive action to support our students. These partnerships are designed to elevate the voices of our educators and they will provide additional resources to help states take bold action to fund our public schools, support our teachers, and prioritize learning. 

To participate in the “Progress Partnership,” states should take (or have already taken) the following actions (which draws on a list of state-level executive actions proposed by the Center for American Progress):

Increase teacher pay: States will agree to a state-federal partnership with a generous federal match to increase salaries for all teachers, as well as recommendations that address unique state needs when it comes to the teacher pipeline, such as recruitment, retention, diversity of the workforce, and quality of teacher preparation. State educators should be included in the development of these plans.

Adapt high school curricula to improve workforce readiness and post-secondary success: State education departments, working with educators, will evaluate student career and college readiness, including coursework, curriculum and other policies that prepare students for today’s workforce and post-secondary success.

Establish an equitable school infrastructure funding mechanism: In addition to receiving generous direct federal funding for school infrastructure improvements, states will create a mechanism for distributing federal school infrastructure funding that addresses disparities in conditions and resources and ensures equity in funding for construction and repairs of school buildings across the state.

Submit recommendations to align school services and schedules with the needs of working families: States will work with educators to develop and submit recommendations on how schools can meet the needs of working families, which could include low-cost after-school programs, alternative programs for students on days when schools are closed, and a community school model that wraps other community services in the school building to make schools into community hubs.

Convene a commission to review the state’s existing funding formula to improve equity: States will review the existing funding formula to ensure that all students, particularly those with the greatest need, have access to adequate educational resources. The commission must include professional educators and develop recommendations for improving state education funding equity, which will be published biennially along with an assessment of state progress.

As part of her plan for her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will also:

Reduce racial disparities in disciplining students. Senator Klobuchar will re-issue guidance directing schools to reduce racial disparities in how they discipline students, which prompted more than 50 of America’s largest school districts to institute discipline reform.

Fully fund the IDEA and reinstate the guidance protecting the rights of students with disabilities. Senator Klobuchar’s budget will fully fund IDEA to support students with disabilities. In addition, Senator Klobuchar will reinstate documents protecting the rights of students with disabilities after Secretary DeVos rescinded 72 guidance documents outlining those rights.

Prevent the expansion of private school vouchers. Senator Klobuchar will stand firmly with our public schools and end discussions of Secretary Betsy DeVos’s $50 billion proposal to fund private school vouchers.

Restore protections for the LGBTQ community. Senator Klobuchar will reverse the harmful anti-LGBTQ administrative actions taken by the Trump Administration when it comes to education, health care and civil rights, and she will work to pass the Equality Act in year one of her presidency.

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Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren Announces Plan to Protect Vote, Election Security, Strengthen our Democracy

Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren, US Senator from Massachusetts, proposes a sweeping, comprehensive plan to protect access to the ballot box and the security of elections © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Charlestown, MA – Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, Democratic US Senator from Massachusetts, released her plan to make voting easy and convenient and secure our elections from threats both foreign and domestic:

Elections are the foundation of our democracy, but in the United States – the greatest democracy in the world – our government treats voting like it’s one of the least important things we do. We have around 8,000 election jurisdictions all doing their own thing. They are overstretched, under-resourced, and their technology is often laughably out of date.

Voting should be easy. But instead, many states make it hard for people to vote. We have all heard stories about polling places running out of ballots, computer problems causing delays, ballot designs confusing voters, and extremely long lines preventing working people from voting. And on top of these administrative issues, racist and partisan officials often deliberately seek to stop citizens from exercising the right to vote. States have purged names from the voter rolls, limited same-day registration, closed polling places in communities of color, used voter ID laws to try to disenfranchise Native Americans, and even placed restrictions and criminal penalties on efforts to register new voters.

Our elections should be as secure as Fort Knox. But instead, they’re less secure than your Amazon account. State and local officials take their jobs seriously, but they often don’t have the resources to secure their elections. Even then, it’s hard for local officials to defend against attacks from foreign governments. In the 2016 election, the Russian government tried to infiltrate at least 39 state election systems and at least one election equipment company. They tried to spear-phish more than 100 local election officials’ email accounts. They even successfully broke into several voter registration databases. 

The harsh truth is that our elections are extremely vulnerable to attack: Forty-two states use voter registration databases that are more than a decade old. Laughably, in 2019, some still use Windows 2000 and Windows XPTwelve states still use paperless machines, meaning there’s no paper trail to verify vote counts. Some states don’t require post-election audits. And ten states don’t train election officials to deal with cybersecurity threats. This is a national security threat, and three years after a hostile foreign power literally attacked our democracy, we’ve done far too little to address it. 

We need a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote. But the moral necessity of this amendment shouldn’t stop us from acting now. The federal government already has the power to regulate federal elections, secure our democracy, and put a stop to racist voter suppression. 

Under our Constitution, Congress can regulate the “Times, Places, and Manner,” of federal elections. This power is so broad that even Justice Scalia believed this provision gives Congress “authority to provide a complete code for congressional elections.” Congress also has the power to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments to prevent voting discrimination, and the power of the purse to grant money to the states to meet federal standards. It’s time to draw on these constitutional powers to strengthen our democracy. 

Enough is enough. It is time to make high-quality voting in the greatest democracy in the world easy, convenient, and professional. It’s time to secure our elections from all threats, foreign and domestic. It’s time to address election security, administration problems, and voter suppression. 

Here’s how my plan will work:

  • Federal elections get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security. Right now some jurisdictions use dated machines that are easily hackable with no paper trail. Ballot design is all over the place. No more. The federal government will replace every voting machine in the country with state-of-the-art equipment and require adoption of a uniform federal ballot. And we will lock all federal voting technology systems behind a security firewall like it’s Fort Knox.
  • Federal standards for federal elections. We have 8,000 election jurisdictions running elections. Problems with resources, malfeasance, and errors are rampant. No more. We will have federal standards to ensure everyone can vote, including mandating automatic and same-day registration, early voting, and vote by mail. My plan will mean no more arbitrary voter purges. No more registration issues. And no more gerrymandering. We will also make Election Day a holiday to make it easier for people to get to the polls.
  • Enforce the law and expand access – through incentives where possible, and with federal authority where necessary. My plan will give states cutting-edge voting equipment and election security protocols, all paid for by the federal government, and states will be required to follow all federal standards for federal elections. States who also choose to meet these requirements in their state elections can work through federal-state partnership agreements to have those elections fully funded by the federal government, too – and we’ll give them a bonus for achieving high voter turnout rates. And where racist or corrupt politicians refuse to follow the law, the federal government will temporarily take over the administration of their federal elections to guarantee the fundamental right to vote.
     

Securing Our Elections

Under my plan, federal elections will get state-of-the-art federal machines, federal ballots, and federal security.  The federal government will replace insecure and outdated systems with hand-marked, voter-verified paper ballot machines. To prevent hanging-chads and other confusing ballot designs, we’ll have uniform federal ballots all across the country that are based on easy-to-use design principles. The federal government will also provide every polling location with accessible ballot machines for people with disabilities and conduct research into how to improve voting security and accessibility for all people, including those with disabilities and people for whom English isn’t their primary language. 

Through a new independent Secure Democracy Administration, which will replace the Election Assistance Commission and be staffed by civil servants, the federal government will manage the cybersecurity aspects of elections and develop additional security procedures for election administration and the end-to-end handling of ballots. States will implement these additional security measures, and will receive technical assistance and training from the Secure Democracy Administration. In addition, states will be required to conduct risk-limiting audits prior to certifying elections – and we’ll have independent oversight of those audits.
 

Establishing Binding Federal Standards for Federal Elections

Our elections are never going to be secure, fair, or workable with so many jurisdictions each making their own rules — especially when some officials deliberately manipulate those rules to stop people from voting. Under my plan, we’ll have a uniform set of federal election standards that achieve four goals:

No more registration problems. My plan will mandate automatic voter registration and same-day registration for federal elections. State and federal government agencies will automatically register voters and transfer that information to state elections officials, and voters can opt-out, if they choose. Every state will also be required to offer same-day registration, which acts as a fail-safe for anyone who is mistakenly left off the rolls. 

No more voter purges. Under my plan, states will be banned from removing voters from the election rolls unless the voter affirmatively requests to be removed or there is objective evidence of a legitimate reason to remove them, like death, change of address, or loss of eligibility to vote. We will also re-enfranchise those who have served their time and left prison.  

No more difficulties voting. We will make Election Day a national holiday, and all federal elections will have a minimum of 15 days of early voting, expanded voting hours, the option to vote with a sworn statement of identity instead of an ID, convenient polling locations, and voting by mail. And we will pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Native American Voting Rights Act to shut down a host of festering discriminatory practices.  

No more gerrymandering. Under my plan, states will be required to use independent redistricting commissions to draw federal congressional districts to prevent gerrymandering. Both parties should compete on a level playing field; not in a rigged game designed to suppress the will of the people.  
 

Enforcing the law and expanding access – through incentives where possible, and with federal authority where necessary

Our democracy shouldn’t be about keeping people out – it should strive to bring everyone to the polls. Under my plan, states will receive new state-of-the-art machines and federal election security, all paid for by the federal government, and they will also be obligated to comply with the federal standards for federal elections. But we should make voting easier in all elections – federal, state, and local. I’m proposing a federal-state partnership so that states will have a strong financial incentive to follow these rules in their state and local elections as well — and to maximize voter turnout.

Here’s how it will work: the federal government will pay the entirety of a state’s election administration costs, as long as the state meets federal standards in its state and local elections and works to make voting more convenient. States will create state implementation plans, describing how they will adhere to federal law and increase access to voting (e.g. location of polling places). The Secure Democracy Administration will review state implementation plans for compliance with federal law, election security protocols, potentially racially discriminatory impacts, and efforts to make voting more convenient. States that achieve high percentage voter turnout, including across racial, gender, and age groups, will be awarded additional bonus payments. All plans will be finalized well in advance of Election Day, and states will provide data on their election activities. If a state does not participate in the federal-state partnership, but a local jurisdiction within the state wishes to do so, the local jurisdiction can work with the federal government to create a local implementation plan and it will get access to federal funds to cover its election administration costs.  

States can choose to follow their own rules for their state and local elections. But if they do, they won’t receive new funding for administering state elections beyond election security measures, and they will still have to administer federal elections in accordance with federal law – including preclearance for any changes that might have a discriminatory impact under the Voting Rights Advancement Act. 

If state or local election officials choose to ignore these federal rules and instead move to violate them, my plan will give the Secure Democracy Administration the authority to seek a court order to step in and guarantee that every voter has access to the polls unless or until the state shows its intent to fully comply with federal law. The right to vote is a fundamental right, and we will not let racist and corrupt politicians undermine it or our democracy. 

Our democracy is too important for it to be under-resourced and insecure. We need to do everything we can to make sure our elections are convenient, professional, and secure — and we should be willing to pay for it. Based on estimates of national election administration expenses, recent state efforts to upgrade their election systems, and assessments of the costs of new machines and audits, to cover these costs, we would allocate around $20 billion over ten years, which includes around $15 billion for election administration and around $5 billion for election security. This investment can be fully paid for with revenue generated from the Ultra-Millionaire Tax.

Democracy hangs on the idea that whoever gets the most votes wins. Politicians are supposed to compete over how many voters they can persuade, not how many they can disqualify or demoralize. And we have a solemn obligation to secure our elections from those who would try to undermine them. That’s why the Constitution gives Congress the tools to regulate the administration of federal elections. It’s time to pick up those tools and use them.

Read more about Warren’s plan here 

Malcolm Nance: Installing Trump as President is Part of Putin’s Plot to Destroy Democracy

Malcolm Nance, counterterrorism and intelligence consultant and frequent MSNBC commentator, sheds light on “The Plot to Destroy Democracy” at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Malcolm Nance, the counterterrorism and intelligence expert seen frequently on MSNBC, was watching the early Midterm Election returns on November 6, 2018, and was frantic. “We are ‘x’ number of days from the end of American democracy,” he thought. “If we lose and Republicans keep control, Trump will be like Saddam Hussein” believing he could wield unbridled power.

“We saved democracy – put collective values together and decided not to let government go unchecked. Before, we were rather reserved about how bad things were – seeing our constitutional republic collapsing before our eyes,” he said, in a return visit to Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, December 7.

“The shock to our belief system came from Russia, but not the Russians alone. It had to include others,” said the author of “The Plot to Destroy Democracy.”

His book documents how Putin needed to make Russia – essentially a third world country with atomic bombs – great again by destroying, degrading the  #1 country at top, the US. Russia, he noted, is a very poor nation, with a Gross National Product equal to Italy. “The US does more trade with Chile than Russia. Russia is a trailer park with atomic bombs – all they sell is weapons, oil, natural gas.”

Russia is led by Putin, an ex-KGB officer, who, when he left Russian intel service, was collapsing. “Putin became the controller, the enforcer of the Russian Mafia in St. Petersburg.

“What happened to Russia after Communism was unbridled, unabashed, crazy Mafia-like capitalism, out of control for 10 years. Russia sold off tanks, airports, took the money and put it into Western real estate – some to New York City – to launder money.

Putin became a billionaire, but something was missing. When Soviet Russia collapsed, what was the philosophy to replace Communism?  Putin realized something fundamental – Russians are extremely conservative – religious – they don’t believe in the family values of the West.

The Russian society had to be built anew and Putin knew to steer it more deeply to the Russian Orthodox Church. As the first director of Russian intel, he rebuilt a church next to KGB headquarters (it had been torture center under Stalin) because he realized if he controlled the Russian Orthodox Church, he could bring the population in line. He started funding rebuilding of Russian orthodox churches. Russians are extremely [socially] conservative, so he introduced policies to cater to homophobes and racists [just as Trump is catering to anti-immigrant fervor].

So in 2010, American Conservatives started saying out loud that Russia was a better example of Christian Conservatism than the West. The National Organization of Families – an extremist group – started holding “Persecution of Christians” conferences in Moscow. “Aggrieved Americans who hated Muslims, would fly to Moscow, meet with people from the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian government, and talk about the persecution of Christians around the world.” By 2015, Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, was flying to Moscow and meeting with Putin.

“Russians understood this was part of America they could work with – they could co-opt. There is a lot of reporting about how Russians and Christian evangelicals in the US have been working together for the last decade.”

Another group, the NRA, was also vulnerable. Enter Maria Butina, who, by all definitions is a spy – a “honeypot,” a trained agent who will have sex to get what they want. She cultivated NRA leaders. In July 2015, she appeared at a FreedomFest  Q&A session in Las Vegas featuring Trump and got to pose the first question, to describe his foreign policy and his views on “damaging” economic sanctions against Russia. “I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump said. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.”

“Out of nowhere, she asks the first question. I see an intel operation,” Nance said. “Two years ago, I was first on national TV to say the US was under attack with intel op. From Russians’ perspective, How do we co-opt the US? What resources do we put into place? (See: Maria Butina Loved Guns, Trump and Russia. It Was a Cover, Prosecutors Say.)

[The FBI and Mueller are investigating whether the $30 million the NRA spent to elect Trump actually came from Russia.]

“David Duke has an apartment in Moscow. All the senior Alt-Right leaders, who organized the Charlottesville riot, believe Russia is bastion of Christian conservativism, the pinnacle example of how we should behave [in the US].

“Most important; Russia already co-opted virtually ever conservative group in Europe. Because when the Soviet Union fell and rejected Communism and brought themselves into strongman autocratic leadership, European conservative groups – ex-Fascists – were looking for leadership and money.

“The government of Austria is controlled by a political party organized in 1952 by two Austrian SS officers who later rose up in power. They had no chance of ruling in government until last 10 years. The rise of right wing fascist political parties in Europe is part of this story that will scare you – because these are same political groups [as the Nazis].” A warning that resonated profoundly in this audience in the synagogue.

“In Germany, the AFD – Alternative for Deutschland – is anti immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic. They are unabashed in their open racism, in their belief that liberal democracy should be supplanted by conservative groups in the West who will create an axis of autocracies, and make laws so no one has to vote anymore.

“Remember that Hitler was elected with 37% of vote – before Nazi Germany, it was the Weimar Republic. He was elected in a fair and free election, but once in power, he changed the laws.”

That movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Nance said, was about showing that people need to be held accountable. “When I saw the film later as an adult, I understood what the trial was – of the German Supreme Court justices who validated every law justifying rape, murder, sterilization. They justified execution through lethal injection of every mentally ill patient in the country. Then they authorized the mass murder of 6 million Jews, while Hitler’s wars around Europe killed 50 million more.

“The Supreme Court Justices of Nazi Germany were elected, the government was elected. People chose them. Then they changed laws to make everything they did legal in the Nazi German system.

“’Judgment at Nuremberg’ is about how it was amoral to human decency to do what they did. They needed to be held accountable. Even as a young guy, I understood it was wrong to hurt people using the legal system,” said Nance, who noted that he had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia, and had his understanding of the Shoah profoundly changed after visiting Auschwitz.

[One should note at this point that the perversion of law is exactly what the Indian Removal Act, the Dred Scott Decision, and Jim Crow were about. And now, how Republicans in lameduck session, are stripping power from incoming duly-elected Democrats in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina.]

“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Putin’s plan is simple: to get rid of democracy you don’t need to have a coup d’etat, you can do it through election that votes democracy out of existence.

Steve Bannon, former advisor to the president, is an adherent to the philosophy of Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin” by Breitbart News when it was run by Steve Bannon. Dugin advocates for neo-EuroAsianism, where the poles of power from Washington to the European capitals to the rest of world, should be eliminated, along with West. (See: The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin)

If figures in Putin’s efforts to shift Turkey’s alliance from NATO to Russia and to ally with Syria and Iran – moves that Michael Flynn, who was a paid lobbyist for Turkey’s Erdogan, was effecting.

“The election of Trump is the end state of what Russia doing in Europe- every major political party in Europe is owned by the United Russia Party that loaned money. The French candidate, Marine le Pen in France, got 50 million Euro loan from Putin. Her job was to break up NATO and the European Union on one day; she spoke about it openly and publicly.

Far right extremism was pushing across Europe. It was only the common sense of the French people in March 2017 [and reports of Russia hacking of social media, as in the 2016 election in the US] that saved European democracy from collapsing. The European Union would have broken up if France withdrew. It was a very near thing. But they got away with putting Trump into office.”

“It is very bad for the US if all our allies start collapsing one by one… If Britain doesn’t get its act together in next 90 days, they can face economic collapse.

“Brexit – the Leave group – are saying ‘Donald Trump will give us unilateral deal.’ The last time that happened was Lend Lease. The Atlantic was on fire, Europe fell under the Nazis. Who talks like that?

“Like Alexander Dugin, Trump uses ‘globalist’ as if a dirty word. We invented globalism when we started shipping all over world. We saved Britain, invaded France. Trump doesn’t understand any of that.

“How critical it is for you to watch what is happening in Europe – it is run by open fascists who come from ex Nazi party, who are close to Putin and also to Trump. This is why Steve Bannon went to Europe, where he said, ‘When they call you a racist, embrace it. Wear it as a badge of honor.’

“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.”

Nance, in response to a question, said that the Americans who were involved in the theft of the 2016 election committed treason.

As to whether Republicans would ever abandon Trump, he said that once the evidence is released, if it is so overwhelming, “this nation will end up in a Benedict Arnold moment. It will be so clear that Trump was to win at all cost, to make money and be master of the universe, and because he would control the government, he would be untouchable and still get the Ivanka Spa in the Trump Moscow Tower. It will be so clear, so overwhelming, this eclipses Benedict Arnold. We have a president under the control of a foreign power.”

But will he be impeached? Indicted? Or pardon himself and his entire family?

One possibility: at the point Republicans are convinced that Trump is damaging their brand, possibly even causing the party to disappear into a miasma of fascism, kleptocracy and bankruptcy, the leaders will come to Trump with an offer he can’t refuse: they will suspend prosecution of Don Jr., Ivanka and Jared Kushner, halt impeachment and promise not to prosecute him for the many felonies (campaign finance violations, tax fraud, money laundering, conspiracy with a foreign adversary) if he resigns. That would save the party for Mike Pence, who is in fact the president they wanted all along.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

May Days: Trump’s Many Ironic Proclamations, From Law Day to Memorial Day, with Mothers Day in the Middle

May finishes with Memorial Day. Trump will no doubt issue a proclamation honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve American freedoms and values, while doing everything to undermine them © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Normally rote proclamations take on a sardonic, sarcastic, ironic tone when signed by Donald J. Trump.

It may surprise people that May 1 (in many places called May Day) is proclaimed Law Day – particularly ironic as Trump, insisting he doesn’t have to answer to the investigation into possible Russian collusion with his campaign and obstruction of justice while in office, is nothing but undermining the Rule of Law and the concept that “No Man is Above the Law.” He has said as much, in such statements echoing Nixon’s “When the President does it, well, that means it’s not illegal”. Or in his echo of Louis XIV’s “L’etat s’est moi” – when he decried the “raid” on his lawyer Michael Cohen as an attack on the nation (what does he make of sending his goons to raid his Dr. Bornstein’s office without any kind of warrant and steal his medical records over his pique at being outed for using a hair-growth prescription? That press shill Sarah Huckabee Sanders said was “routine” when someone becomes president? Does anyone recall any other president raiding their doctor’s office to seize records? ).

Here’s what Trump signed (and clearly did not write and likely never read):

     On Law Day, we celebrate our Nation’s heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under the law.  This heritage is embodied most powerfully in our Constitution, the longest surviving document of its kind.  The Constitution established a unique structure of government that has ensured to our country the blessings of liberty through law for nearly 229 years.

     The Framers of our Constitution created a government with distinct and independent branches — the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial — because they recognized the risks of concentrating power in one authority.  As James Madison wrote, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”  By separating the powers of government into three co-equal branches and giving each branch certain powers to check the others, the Constitution provides a framework in which the rule of law has flourished.

     The importance of the rule of law can be seen throughout our Nation’s history.

It is not really a coincidence that May 1 (May Day, a celebration of Workers rights around the world, including in the US of A where May Day began), is also designated as Loyalty Day – a McCarthy-era direct assault on Communism (but apparently, not on Russia, which is no longer communist but fascist and Trump’s best bud).

Loyalty Day, just like National Prayer Day, is actually a violation of what this nation holds dear. In America, we are not supposed to be required to pledge allegiance, certainly not to swear “under God”. No doubt, Trump signed the proclamation, thinking that Loyalty Day meant to swear loyalty to himself, the Dear Leader. I have no doubt he actually read the proclamation:

     On Loyalty Day, we reflect with humility and gratitude upon the freedoms we hold dear, and we reaffirm our allegiance to our Nation and its founding principles.  We cherish our system of self-government, whereby each American citizen is free to exercise their God-given and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We honor and defend our Constitution, which constrains the power of government and allows us freely to exercise these rights.  We also recognize the great responsibility that accompanies a free people and vow to preserve our hard-won liberty.  For we know, as President Ronald Reagan once said, that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

     This Loyalty Day, we remember and honor the thousands of Americans who have laid down their lives to protect and defend our Nation’s beautiful flag.

May is also when this government has decided to hold the National Prayer Breakfast – another action (along with “In God We Trust” as a motto on money) to institutionalize the violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

Instead, Trump went a step beyond what even George W. Bush did in setting up the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, to sign his own Faith-Based Initiative.

The nexus of Capitalism and Christian Zealotry came during the McCarthy era, when the notion of Christian charity was replaced by the Puritan concept that you got what you deserved, so rich people were rich because they deserved it; poor people were impoverished because they deserved it. Such zealotry was used to justify slavery as well as prohibiting abortion to rape victims.

Much of today’s malevolent political climate can be traced to the McCarthy era, including Trump’s own mentor, Roy Cohn, who was McCarthy’s own counsel, and taught Donnie everything he knows about attacking in order to evade legal or moral accountability.

And of course, May features Mothers Day… Trump’s proclamation for May 13, 2018 begins this way:

     Mother’s Day is a very special occasion and opportunity to express our endless gratitude to the women who give their unyielding love and devotion to their families, and their unending sacrifices to guide, protect, and nurture the success of their children.  Our country has long appreciated and benefited from the contributions women have made to empowering and inspiring not only those under their roofs, but those in our schools, communities, governments, and businesses…

     Today, and every day, let us express our utmost respect, admiration, and appreciation for our mothers who have given us the sacred gifts of life and unconditional love.  In all that they do, mothers influence their families, their communities, our Nation, and our world.  Whether we became their children through birth, adoption, or foster care, we know the unmatched power of the love, dedication, devotion, and wisdom of our mothers.

Certainly, Trump cherishes motherhood so much, he had an affair with Stormy Daniels, among others, while Melania was still nursing 4-month old Barron.

This is the man who directs his administration to terrorize undocumented mothers, that they will be forced to abandon their American-citizen children, who pulls away parents who are the major breadwinners for their families, who have lived in the United States for decades and are contributing to their communities.

The precious sentiment of his Mothers Day proclamation is belied by the cruelty the Trump Administration has shown to refugees claiming asylum, purposefully separating children, even infants, from their parents in order to discourage people fleeing violence from attempting to find refuge in the United States.

“There is no law enforcement or other legitimate basis for separating children from their parents at the border,” Congressman Adam Schiff tweeted. “It is simply cruel. Imagine the terror of a young child in a strange land, pried away from his or her parents. Whatever happened to compassion or family values?”

“Arresting and ripping apart parents and children is a new low in demagoguery. It’s another reminder of President Trump’s failure to craft a genuine set of border laws and his inhumane outlook,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote.

“It’s a chilling but predictable new low for an administration that reacts blindly and harshly to any mention of immigrants. Families may be fleeing persecution, seeking a better life or trying to find relatives already in the U.S.”

It doesn’t stop there.  The Republicans, which just passed a tax scam that shifts $1.5 trillion in wealth from working people to the richest and adds that much to the national debt,so Trump is clawing back $7 billion in spending from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and  $252 million from a fund that earmarked to combat the Ebola outbreak.

Trump also is advocating for a Republican-pushed Farm Bill which cuts SNAP – the food stamp program that helps 40 million people, the majority who are children, seniors and disabled – by $20 billion,  literally taking food from babes’ mouths. Attaching new work requirements to qualify for the very benefits that are necessary because wages have not kept pace, despite record corporate profits and now $1.5 trillion in tax windfall for the richest.

He also sheds crocodile tears for how devastating the opioid crisis has been. But what has Trump actually done to address the opioid crisis? And for that matter, what has he or the Republican majority done to solve the life/death problem of access to affordable health care, instead, making impossible demands for the very people most desperate for health care to access Medicaid.

Indeed, he chose Mother’s Day to proclaim the start of National Women’s Health Week the guy who is doing everything possible to shut down Planned Parenthood, to sabotage access to affordable health care, who would make being a woman a “pre-existing condition”, who appears to care less that the US is facing a maternal mortality crisis, that up to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications each year with Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die than white women from those complications, not to mention that a woman who suffers a miscarriage may well be jailed for infanticide. (See: Virginia Woman Given a Jail Sentence for “Concealing a Dead Body” After Her Stillbirth)

Trump proclaims:

This is an opportunity to honor the importance of women across America and renew our pledge to support their health and well being.

One of the most LOL ironic among the May proclamations was the one Trump issued as a nod to his wife, Melania, who after  a year and a half as First Lady, finally declared her “agenda” branded as “Be Best” (which turns out to be copied from an Obama handbook on social media and bullying), declaring May 7,  “Be Best  Day”.

Trump’s remarks at this heralded event in which he followed up by signing a proclamation of “Be Best Day” did not speak at all to the essence of anti-bullying. No, not at all. It was all praise for Melania.

     America is truly blessed to have a First Lady who is so devoted to our country and to our children.

     On Be Best Day, we encourage and promote the well-being of children everywhere.  In an increasingly complex and inter‑connected world, nothing is more important than raising the next generation of Americans to be healthy, happy, productive, and morally responsible adults.  This begins with educating our children about the many critical issues they must confront in our modern world that affect their ability to lead balanced and fulfilled lives.

Our Nation’s children deserve certain knowledge that they are safe to grow, learn, and make mistakes.  Adults must provide them with the tools they need to make positive contributions in their schools, with their friends, and in their communities.

It will surprise people that May is also Jewish American Heritage Month, and here we can recall Trump’s varied and many dogwhistles to bigotry and hate and his tacit encouragement of White Supremacists.

      Jewish Americans have helped guide the moral character of our Nation… The contributions of the Jewish people to American society are innumerable, strengthening our Nation and making it more prosperous.

Lumping other minorities together in the same month’s celebrations, May is also Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, as a gratuitous nod to an appreciation of “diversity”:

       Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have contributed immeasurably to our Nation’s development and diversity as a people.

It’s also Older Americans Month, as Trump declared:

      Our country and our communities are strong today because of the care and dedication of our elders.  Their unique perspectives and experiences have endowed us with valuable wisdom and guidance, and we commit to learning from them and ensuring their safety and comfort.

       My Administration is focused on the priorities of our Nation’s seniors. The Department of Justice, for example, is focused on protecting seniors from fraud and abuse.  My Administration is also committed to protecting the Social Security system so that seniors who have contributed to the system can receive benefits from it.  We are also dedicated to improving healthcare, including by increasing the quality of care our veterans receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs and by lowering prescription drug prices for millions of Americans.

Except that everything Trump’s administration has done goes against seniors, including rolling back the Consumer Financial Protection Board which helps seniors (and everyone else) address predatory tactics by financial industry, including Obama-era rules reining in PayDay lenders; has exploded the budget deficit in order to justify pulling billions out of Medicare and Social Security, is determined to narrow Medicaid, has sabotaged the Affordable Care Act resulting in higher premiums, and is risking the Veterans Administration’s ability to provide the specialized health care veterans require by its intent to privatize and put in charge Dr. Ronny with absolutely no experience whatsoever. And let’s examine again what this administration has not done to address opioid addiction or skyrocketing cost of prescription medication. What exactly has this administration done for seniors?

And now Republicans are taking $800 million out of Medicare and standing by as drug costs continue to skyrocket.

Of course, May finishes with Memorial Day, and Trump will no doubt pull out one of the proclamations that express such appreciation for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve America’s liberty and freedoms – 660,000 have died in all America’s wars since the Revolution (when 4,435 died), including 1,000 in the Indian Wars (1817-1898), 225,000 in the Civil War (140,414 for the Union, 74,524 Confederates); 53,402 in World War I, 291,557 in World War II, 33,739 in the Korean War, 47,434 in Vietnam and 6915 in the Global War on Terror (2001 to present).

Millions more have returned home, some with lifelong injuries both physical and mental. Trump’s answer to these Veterans isn’t the same as during Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces campaign, or the efforts taken to improve access to health care and other services including a new GI Bill. Trump is moving forward with plans to privatize the Veterans Administration which is opposed by most veterans.

On the same day as Trump proclaimed “Military Spouse Day,” he adds to the list of military spouses deported, as well as veterans who had been promised citizenship in exchange for their military service.

      We ask so much of our military spouses:  frequent moves; heartbreaking separations; parenting alone; incomplete celebrations; and weeks, months, and sometimes years of waiting for a loved one’s safe return from harm’s way.  Time and time again, however, military spouses respond with resilience that defies explanation.  Our service members are often praised as national heroes, but their spouses are equally worthy of that distinction.

     My Administration is committed to taking care of our Armed Forces and ensuring that our military is equipped to defend our country and protect our way of life.  This mission also includes caring for the unique needs of military spouses, whose service to our Nation cannot be overstated.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump-Pence Campaign Leaders Launch ‘America First Policies’ Advocacy Group

Trump-Pence Campaign leaders have launched America First Policies to aggressively advocate for the policies and initiatives coming from the White House © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Trump-Pence Campaign leaders have launched America First Policies to aggressively advocate for the policies and initiatives coming from the White House © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Even as millions around the country and the world have been protesting the policies coming down from Donald Trump – the immigration and travel ban, global gag order on women’s health facilities, attacks on environment and climate action, attacking the media, threatening new voter suppression actions (the list goes on and on) – today a senior group of key Trump-Pence campaign, transition, and inauguration leaders announced the formation of America First Policies, a non-profit organization dedicating to advocating the initiatives and policies of the White House.

“As an issue advocacy organization, America First will be dedicated to empowering, educating, and mobilizing tens of millions of Americans who believe in policies that put America First,” the press release stated. “The organization will promote policy, support leaders, coalitions, and other organizations who back America First policies, and communicate directly to citizens – directly challenging the agenda of the liberal and biased media.”

America First Policies will be led by Nick Ayers, Rick Gates, Marty Obst and Brad Parscale – a team who worked closely throughout much of the campaign, transition, and inauguration and have tremendous experience in public policy, issue advocacy, fundraising, and political organization. In addition, David Bossie and Katrina Pierson will also be joining the newly formed entity. The group said it will not accept any donations from federally registered lobbyists.

“President Trump campaigned on a bold but basic concept: America First,” the team said in a joint statement. “This is a concept the American people both understand and support, but few in the media recognize and many politicians beholden to special interests will oppose. We will provide the counter balance. And while our funding will be significant – the most powerful thing this organization can do is harness the power and energy from everyday ordinary Americans, and give them a voice in this process. If their voices are heard, ‘America First’ policies championed by The White House will prevail.”

FBI Director Comey Under Fire for Unprecedented Action Rekindling Clinton Email Issue

Hillary for America Chair John Podesta: “It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election. The Director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary for America Chair John Podesta: “It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election. The Director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus demanded FBI Director James Comey release more details about the letter he sent to Congress just 11 days before Election Day – an unprecedented action – renewing the email scandal that has plagued Secretary Hillary Clinton’s entire campaign. Otherwise, they charge, it raises questions about Director Comey’s political motivations, handing Donald Trump’s campaign the ammunition they were looking for to depress voter turnout.

“For months, Donald Trump and his henchmen have led chants of ‘Lock her up.’ Now they are trying to turn this letter into something it is not, because the only way he can win is to hijack the election,” stated Congressman Luis Gutierrez (Illinois), and suggested that FBI Director Comey was similarly bullied into making this unprecedented statement, with the effect of breathing new fire into the Trump’s imploding campaign.

But, Gutierrez asserted, “The more we learn, the more we know it is overblown. Initially we told that the investigation has been reopened. That’s debunked. The emails don’t come from Clinton’s server at all. It may be that most or all are duplicates of others that have already been turned over.”

But he said, it raises questions about Comey’s own motivations. If only to give an update on an investigation, he noted, “You don’t hear Comey giving updates” on Russia’s role in the hack of the Democratic National Committee and whether the Trump campaign had any involvement.

“Why go so far as to send this highly questionable, unusual letter? [With so little information] it doesn’t make sense…He sent it, knowing it would be leaked, and he sent to 8 Republican chairmen who were sworn to defeat Clinton.

“Trump may bully the FBI but we cannot let him bully us out of this election,” he said.

Congresswoman Lujan Grisham of New Mexico called it, “another political ploy that has nothing to do with fairness or even professionalism.”

The action casts a shadow over Comey’s leadership, Grisham charged. “It is very difficult for them to rebut the presumption that this was politically motivated, which really should shake us to our core about the DoJ and FBI. This is absolutely unprecedented. You don’t engage this way, so close to an election and without any facts.

“Given that there has been a lot of pressure to the FBI to do something, find something, it is not difficult to figure it out. It allows one side to paint a scenario.” The conclusion that must be drawn, she said, “is that it is aimed at voter suppression, to depress turnout because Clinton is the most qualified candidate ever to run. She has incredible, proven track record for getting things done that this country needs to get done. It appears that that kind of distraction that might suppress remaining voters to stay home. We need Comey and FBI to explain.”

To illustrate how unusual Comey’s action is, she said, “it is not the practice of the FBI or Justice Department to release any kind of information related to ongoing or potential investigation, of which this is neither. And members of Congress should not engage or interfere. Because if you don’t hold to that practice it minimizes the independence and objectivity of the office. That highly unprofessional, out-of-practice effort, particularly engaging 8 Republican members of Congress, told us this is political.

“This has nothing to do with private server, Secretary Clinton’s emails. This is about somebody who has worked with Clinton, and part of an entirely separate investigation.”

Congressman Joaquin Castro (Texas) highlighted the unprecedented timing of releasing such a potentially inflammatory statement just 11 days before an election.

“This would be strange before a City Council election, much less a Presidential election…Director Comey showed extremely poor judgment in deciding to release the letter he did yesterday. He is irresponsible if he does not provide further information as to why looking at these emails. There has been no indication the emails are from or to Secretary Clinton or that she is involved in any way.”

The Hillary for America campaign documented the reaction:

Comey Under Fire After Sending Unprecedented Letter

FBI Director James Comey is under widespread criticism for breaking department precedent by commenting on an ongoing investigation, and doing so just days before a presidential election. Indeed, the Washington Post reported this morning senior Justice Department officials made perfectly clear to Comey that he would be in violation of long-standing DOJ policy.

Moreover, according to CNN, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates both objected to Comey sending this inappropriate letter to Congress. Nevertheless, Director Comey independently decided to move forward, rattling the presidential election with a note that was heavy on innuendo and extremely light on actual information or needed details.

The result? Broad bipartisan condemnation and demands for the swift disclosure of more information:

Washington Post: Justice officials warned FBI that Comey’s decision to update Congress was not consistent with department policy: “Senior Justice Department officials warned the FBI that Director James B. Comey’s decision to notify Congress about renewing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was not consistent with long-standing practices of the department, according to officials familiar with the discussions. Comey told Justice Department officials that he intended to inform lawmakers of newly discovered emails. These officials told him the department’s position “that we don’t comment on an ongoing investigation. And we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election,” said one Justice Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the high-level conversations.”

CNN: Comey notified Congress of email probe despite DOJ concerns: “Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates objected to FBI Director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress about his bureau’s review of emails related to Hillary Clinton’s personal server, law enforcement officials familiar with the discussion said. Comey decided to disregard their objections and sent the letter Friday anyway, shaking the presidential race 11 days before the election and nearly four months after the FBI chief said he wouldn’t recommend criminal charges over the Democratic nominee’s use of the server.

New York Times: Justice Dept. Strongly Discouraged Comey on Move in Clinton Email Case: “Mr. Comey’s letter opened him up to criticism not only from Democrats but also from current and former officials at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, including Republicans. ‘There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election,’ said George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general under the first President George Bush. ‘Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences.’”

Politico: Comey’s disclosure shocks former prosecutors: “James Comey’s surprise announcement that investigators are examining new evidence in the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email server put the FBI director back under a harsh spotlight, reigniting criticism of his unusual decision to discuss the high-profile case in front of the media and two congressional committees.”

Los Angeles Times: “The emails were not to or from Clinton, and contained information that appeared to be more of what agents had already uncovered, the official said, but in an abundance of caution, they felt they needed to further scrutinize them.

Washington Post Editorial: The damage Comey’s bad timing could do: “Mr. Podesta said he is ‘confident’ full disclosure ‘will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.’ If so, the question will be how badly damaged was Ms. Clinton’s candidacy by the 11th-hour re-eruption of a controversy that never should have generated so much suspicion or accusation in the first place.”

New York Times Editorial: “But Mr. Comey’s failure to provide any specifics about a new, potentially important development, less than two weeks before Election Day, is confounding. As Mr. Comey put it in July: “The American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest.” They deserve details even more urgently today.”

Bloomberg: FBI Shocker on Clinton Fuels Criticism of Comey’s Tactics: “FBI Director James Comey is facing extraordinary pressure to explain himself after dropping a bombshell on the campaign of Hillary Clinton just 11 days before the presidential election… Former prosecutors and lawmakers from both parties expressed shock and dismay at Comey’s highly unusual decision, which flouted decades of legal custom that call for avoiding taking actions that could affect the outcome of an election.”

Washington Post: FBI Director James B. Comey under fire for his controversial decision on the Clinton email inquiry: “Nick Ackerman, a former federal prosecutor in New York and an assistant special Watergate prosecutor, said Comey ‘had no business writing to Congress about supposed new emails that neither he nor anyone in the FBI has ever reviewed.’”

Huffington Post: News Outlets Dial Back Reports Of FBI ‘Reopening’ Clinton Email Case: “The story took several other turns on Friday afternoon that complicated the early, screaming headlines, and then ensured the story would remain a topic of discussion in the days ahead. Multiple outlets subsequently reported that the new emails weren’t sent by Clinton and didn’t come from her private server.”

CNN Legal Analyst, Paul Callan: Time for FBI director Comey to go: “Comey’s public announcement in July that the FBI had concluded its investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in the conduct of official State Department business and would not recommend the lodging of criminal charges was historically unprecedented in a high-profile political case.”

Washington Post Op-Ed by Former DOJ Spokesman Matt Miller: James Comey fails to follow Justice Department rules yet again: “With each step, Comey moved further away from department guidelines and precedents, culminating in Friday’s letter to Congress. This letter not only violated Justice rules on commenting on ongoing investigations but also flew in the face of years of precedent about how to handle sensitive cases as Election Day nears…. The director of the FBI has great power at his disposal…. With that independence comes a responsibility to adhere to the rules that protect the rights of those whom the FBI investigates. Comey has failed that standard repeatedly in his handling of the Clinton investigation.”

New York Times: F.B.I. Chief James Comey Is in Political Crossfire Again Over Emails: “The reaction was swift and damning, with Mrs. Clinton’s supporters and even some Republicans blasting Mr. Comey. Indeed, Mr. Comey, who was attacked this summer by Democrats and Republicans for both his decision not to bring charges against Mrs. Clinton and for the way he handled it, found himself in an even stronger crossfire on Friday.”

Los Angeles Times’ Michael McGough: FBI director should have known what his Clinton emails letter would unleash: “Having raised new doubts about Clinton so close to an election, Comey has an obligation —a moral obligation if not a legal one — to do everything he can to expedite the “additional work” required to determine whether this new information does, in fact, cast doubt on his earlier conclusion that Clinton wasn’t criminally culpable.”

Aurora Sentinel Editorial: FBI’s Comey needs to come clean on details, motivation — or resign: “If there’s damning or critical information about Clinton staff handling of email that creates the clear and immediate threat to national security that would warrant such a ploy, Americans deserve to have Clinton explain them, and Clinton must get that opportunity. Otherwise, Comey needs to apologize for his infelicity and possibly politically motivated stunt, and immediately step aside.”

Newsweek: Hillary Clinton’s Emails: The Real Reason The FBI Is Reviewing More Of Them: “Unfortunately, by trying to have things both ways – revealing the change in circumstances while remaining vague about what the agents know – Comey has created that misleading impression that could change the outcome of a presidential election, an act that, if uncorrected, will undoubtedly go down as one of the darkest moments in the bureau’s history.”

New Yorker: James Comey Broke With Loretta Lynch And Justice Department Tradition: “Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.”

Charlotte Observer Editorial: Comey drops Hillary Clinton email bombshell; so tell us more: “But it is extraordinary for such volatile information to emerge so close to Election Day and that’s especially true given how few specifics are known. Because Comey was so vague, voters can’t know what to think. The new emails could be anything from meaningless to evidence of criminal activity by Clinton to most anything in between.”

ThinkProgress: The ‘new’ Clinton emails might all be duplicates: “So, to be clear, the FBI Director delivered a gut punch to the Clinton campaign, despite the fact that 1) he doesn’t know what he has; 2) it may be something that he already had; and, 3) whatever it is that he has, it reportedly didn’t come from Secretary Clinton, and was not sent to her.”

Huffington Post: Heat Rises For FBI Director James Comey As Both Campaigns Demand Email Answers: “Both camps demanded that FBI Director James Comey disclose more details about the emails and the bureau’s investigation, which he made known in a letter to Congress just 11 days before the election…. Many challenged the FBI director’s motives, increasing the pressure on him to comply with calls from both campaigns for more information.”

See: Trump Trumps Up Non-Story About FBI Looking into Additional Clinton Emails

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Yet Another ‘Bombshell’ Clinton Revelation Fizzles As Facts Come Out

Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate, campaigning for President © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate, campaigning for President © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It is so concerning how the Donald Trump campaign has seized on the vague statement FBI Director James Comey made, initially first to eight Republican Congressmen, and only later did he bother to clue in the Democratic members of the committees. Trump seized on this revelation as 1) “bigger than Watergate” and 2) satisfying that in fact, the FBI was not part of the conspiracy to rig the election as he had previously charged. But it has fed into the Trump campaign strategy which, in face of dwindling poll numbers, has focused on suppressing turnout from those who would vote for Clinton.

Here’s how the Hillary for America campaign has responded:

“Yesterday, Republican Congressional leaders leaked an unprecedented letter from FBI Director James Comey, with initial reports including dire headlines for Hillary Clinton. But like most “bombshell” discoveries about Clinton over the course of this campaign, it fizzled rapidly as facts actually became available,” the Hillary for America campaign stated. Let’s review…

YESTERDAY’S BOMBSHELL: NBC News: FBI re-opening investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server

  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz: “FBI Dir just informed me, ‘The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.’ Case reopened”
  • GOP: “BREAKING NEWS: The FBI is re-opening their investigation into @HillaryClinton’s secret server.”

…facts emerge:

  1.       Investigation not reopened. Huffington Post: News Outlets Dial Back Reports Of FBI ‘Reopening’ Hillary Clinton Email Case
  2.      No emails had been withheld. NBC News: “the e-mails Comey announced today were NOT originally withheld by Clinton or campaign.”
  3.      Emails not from Clinton’s server. Bloomberg: New Clinton E-mails Not From Her Private Server, AP Says
  4.      Emails reportedly not to or from Clinton. Los Angeles Times: “The emails were not to or from Clinton”
  5.      No indication emails bear significance. Comey memo to employees: “we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails”
  6.      Many emails likely duplicates of ones already turned over. ThinkProgress: The ‘new’ Clinton emails might all be duplicates
  7.      Comey letter violates DOJ policy. Washington Post: Justice officials warned FBI that Comey’s decision to update Congress was not consistent with department policy
  8.      Comey overruled AG Loretta Lynch. CNN: “Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates disagreed with FBI Director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress about his bureau’s review…”
  9.      Former officials on both sides of aisle criticized Comey. New York Times: “Mr. Comey’s letter opened him up to criticism not only from Democrats but also from current and former officials at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, including Republicans.”
  10.   Clinton and Trump both calling for more information. Huffington Post: “Both camps demanded that FBI Director James Comey disclose more details about the emails and the bureau’s investigation” 

This is hardly the first time. It seems the script is always the same, the campaign noted:

  1.       Bombshell allegation is made hastily without facts available
  2.      Media breathlessly covers the latest supposed Clinton Scandal
  3.      Republicans declare that this time they’ve found the smoking gun
  4.      Initial explosive reports slowly fizzle on account of facts

Here are five of the many recent examples:

BOMBSHELL: @GOP, 8/30/16: “BREAKING: State Dept discovered 30 emails recovered from Hillary Clinton’s private server that discussed Benghazi.”

…facts emerge: Los Angeles Times, 9/7/16: “There appears to be only one new communication related to Benghazi… a complimentary note from a diplomat to Clinton, praising how she handled herself before a Senate panel investigating the matter.”

—-

BOMBSHELL: @GOP, 5/5/16: “Hacker ‘Guccifer’ told news outlets that he repeatedly accessed Clinton’s unsecure email server & that ‘it was easy’”

…facts emerge: FOX News, 7/7/16: Comey: Hacker ‘Guccifer’ Lied About Accessing Clinton’s Emails

—-

BOMBSHELL: @AP, 8/23/16: “BREAKING: AP analysis: More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.”

…facts emerge: Vox, 8/24/16: “Except it turns out not to be true. The nut fact that the AP uses to lead its coverage is wrong, and Braun and Sullivan’s reporting reveals absolutely no unethical conduct….  the AP excluded from the denominator all employees of any government, whether US or foreign.”

—-

BOMBSHELL: Washington Post, 8/22/16: The FBI found 15,000 emails Hillary Clinton didn’t turn over. Uh oh.

…facts emerge: CNN, 10/7/16: “Okay, so what’s in this latest batch? Short answer: No bombshells. More than half of the emails are these so-called “near duplicates” of previously released emails… There are also a number of emails between Clinton and her close aides in which they discuss scheduling matters — timing for phone calls, meetings, etc…. None of the new emails contained information marked as classified or upgraded to classified.”

—-

BOMBSHELL: The Hill, 7/5/16: FBI director: Clinton emails were marked as classified at the time

…facts emerge: MediaIte, 7/7/16: FBI Director Admits Hillary Clinton Emails Were Not Properly Marked Classified

See: FBI Director Comey Under Fire for Unprecedented Action Rekindling Clinton Email Issue

Dueling Candidates on Health Care: Hillary Clinton Would Improve Upon Obamacare, Donald Trump Would Repeal, Restore Control to Insurance Companies

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, during presidential debate, have very different health care proposals © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, during presidential debate, have very different health care proposals © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA, better known as Obamacare), more than 50 million Americans were without any health insurance and 20,000 people were losing their health insurance each month as the Bush Great Recession hemorrhaged 850,000 jobs a month. Though employers for more than a decade have been cutting back on health benefits (making it a Hobson’s choice to leave a terrible job or an abusive marriage), 170 million people get their insurance through their employment, and insurance companies were raising premiums annually at rates five times the rate of inflation, refusing to provide insurance based on pre-existing conditions, charging women higher rates (because they have babies, don’t you know), arbitrarily denying services, capping lifetime claims, throwing people off insurance, and pocketing 25-30% of the premium, with only 70-75% going to patient care. 

The Affordable Care Act, designed to make health insurance accessible to everyone, made improvements that have benefited everyone (as Hillary said), but meant the difference between life and death for the 50 million who could not afford health care at all. But to get it passed Obama had to make compromises, including giving up a public option. Then, chiefly Republican-dominated states rejected ACA, casting millions of their residents into a limbo where they could not qualify for the federally-provided exchange and didn’t have access through an employer. 

Significantly, ACA (Obamacare) was a Hail Mary to get universal access to health care, with some benefits in terms of containing health care costs. But the next round of health care reform would need to address costs. Here, in the words of their own campaigns, are the candidates’ health plans – in essence, Donald Trump pledges to repeal Obamacare and replace it by returning to “market” (that is, for-profit insurance companies) control, while Hillary Clinton is vowing to make necessary improvements to Obamacare to continue the goal of universal health care, correcting the inequities between states which refused Obamacare and possibly with a public option – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features. 

Trump: Obamacare is a Disaster and Needs to be Repealed

“Obamacare Is A Disaster. You Know It We All Know It.”

During the second presidential debate, the question was asked, “What will you do to bring down the cost of health care? This is the rambling, nonsensical reply to the question, and the Trump campaign is so proud of it, they emailed it out:

trump-debate2-obamacare

TRUMP: “It is such a great question, and it’s maybe the question I get almost more than anything else. Outside of defense. Obamacare is a disaster. You know it we all know it. It is going up at numbers that nobody has ever seen worldwide. No One has ever seen numbers like this for healthcare. It is only getting worse. In seventeen, implodes by itself. Their methods of fixing it is to go and ask Congress for more money. More and more money. We right now have almost twenty trillion dollars in debt. Obama care with mother work. It is very bad, very bad health insurance. Far too expensive, and not only expensive for the person that has it, unbelievably expensive for our country. It’s got to be one of the biggest line items very shortly. We have to repeal it, and replace it with something absolutely much less expensive. And something that works. Where your plan can actually be tailored. We have to get rid of the lines around the state, and official lines. Where we stop insurance companies from coming in and competing because they wanted President Obama and whoever is working on it. They want to leave those lines because that gives the insurance companies, essentially, monopolies. We want competition. You will have the finest healthcare plan there is, she wants to go to a single-payer pan. Which would be a disaster. Somewhat similar to Canada. And if you haven’t noticed the Kitty Indians, when they need a big operations they come into the United States in many cases. Because they are system is so slow, it is catastrophic in certain ways. But she wants to go to single-payer. Which means the government basically rules everything. Hillary Clinton has been after this for years. Obamacare was the first step. Obamacare is a total disaster. And not only are your rates going up by numbers that no one has ever believed, but your deductibles are going up. So that unless you get hit by a truck, you are never going to be able to use it. It is a disastrous plan and it has to be repealed.” (Click To Watch)

Clinton’s Plan To Improve Our Health Care And Build On The Affordable Care Act

“Hillary Clinton will defend and expand on the progress made under Obama Administration toward universal coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The fact is, Hillary has never given up on the fight for universal coverage—and she won’t stop now. As First Lady, she refused to give up when the insurance industry and special interests attacked her and defeated healthcare reform. Instead, she worked with Republicans and Democrats to help create and implement the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which now provides health coverage to more than 8 million children,” Hillary for America campaign stated.

Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for President, advocates improving upon Obamacare toward the goal of universal health care © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for President, advocates improving upon Obamacare toward the goal of universal health care © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As president, Hillary will build on the Affordable Care Act to expand coverage for millions of Americans.

  • She will  lower-out-of-pocket expenses for consumers purchasing health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. Hillary believes that in order to expand coverage for families, we need to reduce the cost of purchasing health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Her plan will provide enhanced relief for people on the exchanges, and provide a tax credit of up to $5,000 per family to offset a portion of excessive out-of-pocket and premium costs above 5% of their income. She will enhance the premium tax credits now available through the exchanges so that those now eligible will pay less of a percentage of their income than under current law and ensure that all families purchasing on the exchange will not spend more than 8.5 percent of their income for premiums. Finally, she will fix the “family glitch” so that families can access coverage when their employer’s family plan premium is too expensive.
  • She will support new incentives to encourage all states to expand Medicaid. Hillary will fight for health insurance for our lowest income residents living in every state across the nation. Hillary will follow President Obama’s proposal to allow any state that signs up for the Medicaid expansion to receive a 100 percent match for the first three years, and she will continue to look for other ways to incentivize states to expand Medicaid to meet the health needs of their most vulnerable residents.
  • She will invest in navigators, advertising and other outreach activities to make enrollment easier. Today, as many as 16 million people or half of all those uninsured are eligible but not enrolled in virtually free Medicaid coverage or exchange coverage for as little as $100 a month or less. Hillary will ensure anyone who wants to enroll can understand their options and do so easily, by dedicating more funding for outreach and enrollment efforts. She will invest $500 million per year in an aggressive enrollment campaign to ensure more people enroll in these extremely affordable options.
  • She will expand access to affordable health care to families regardless of immigration status. Hillary sponsored the Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act in the Senate, which later became law and allows immigrant children and pregnant women to obtain Medicaid and CHIP. She believes we should let families—regardless of immigration status—buy into the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Families who want to purchase health insurance should be able to do so.
  • She will continue to support a “public option”—and work to build on the Affordable Care Act to make it possible. As she did in her 2008 campaign health plan, and consistently since then, Hillary supports a “public option” to reduce costs and broaden the choices of insurance coverage for every American. To make immediate progress toward that goal, Hillary will work with interested governors, using current flexibility under the Affordable Care Act, to empower states to establish a public option choice.

Going forward, Hillary will build on these efforts and fight to ensure that the savings from these reforms benefits families—not just insurance companies, drug companies, and large corporations. She will expand coverage for Americans living in rural areas and continue a lifelong commitment to protecting women’s reproductive rights.

  • Hillary’s plan will reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Prescription drug spending accelerated from 2.5 percent in 2013 to 12.6 percent in 2014. It’s no wonder that almost three-quarters of Americans believe prescription drug costs are unreasonable. Hillary believes we need to demand lower drug costs for hardworking families and seniors and she will hold drug companies accountable for unjustified price hikes with new penalties.
  • Her plan will transform our healthcare system to reward value and quality. Hillary is committed to building on delivery system reforms in the Affordable Care Act that improve value and quality care for Americans.
  • Hillary will also work to expand access to rural Americans, who often have difficulty finding quality, affordable health care. She will explore cost-effective ways to broaden the scope of health care providers eligible for telehealth reimbursement under Medicare and other programs, including federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics. She will also call for states to support efforts to streamline licensing for telemedicine and examine ways to expand the types of services that qualify for reimbursement.

Hillary is continuing a lifelong fight to ensure women have access to reproductive health care. As senator, she championed access to emergency contraception and voted in favor of strengthening a woman’s right to make her own health decisions. As president, she will continue defending Planned Parenthood, which provides critical health services including breast exams and cancer screenings to 2.7 million patients a year. And she will work to ensure that all women have access to preventive care, affordable contraception, and safe, legal abortion—not just in principle, but in practice, by ending restrictions like the Hyde Amendment.

Hillary for America also challenged Trump’s proposals:

Trump Would Rip Away Health Coverage From 20 Million People And Let Insurers Write The Rules

Donald Trump would immediately work to repeal Obamacare–taking health insurance away from at least 20 million people and letting the insurance companies write the rules all over again. Trump even supported shutting down the government in order to defund Obamacare.

  • New York Times: “Millions of low-income people have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act and could lost it if Congress repealed the law.”
  • Trump saidhe supported Republicans’ efforts to shut down the government over Obamacare and that they should have stuck together.

Trump’s “plan” would cost hundreds of billions more, and does not address people with pre-existing conditions.

  • CNBC: More $$$, More Uninsured: Donald Trump’s Health-Care Plan
  • VOX:  Trump’s Plan Would Take Health Insurance Away From 21 Million People. Sad!
  • Bloomberg: “Trump’s proposal is silent on the subject of preventing insurers from dropping coverage for those with preexisting conditions, a feature of Obamacare that Trump has said he supports.”

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is making hay, taking a statement that President Bill Clinton made out of context:

FACT CHECK: President Clinton And The Affordable Care Act

“Don’t believe Donald Trump when he distorts what President Clinton said about the Affordable Care Act. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine and President Obama all agree that we have made tremendous progress because of the Affordable Care Act, delivering coverage to 20 million people who were previously uninsured — but they agree there’s more we can do.”

  • Politifact: “In context, it’s also worth noting that Clinton’s actual comments never mentioned the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. In fact, as we reviewed the transcript, we noticed that much of what Clinton said addressed issues that pre-dated the 2010 health care law, including concerns about high costs and a lack of guaranteed coverage.”

The bottom line is Hillary will defend and expand on the progress made under Obama Administration toward universal coverage through the Affordable Care Act, while Donald Trump would immediately work to repeal Obamacare, taking health insurance away from 20 million people – and letting the insurance companies write the rules all over again. Trump’s suggested healthcare plan would cost hundreds of billions more, and does not address people with pre-existing conditions.

See also:

By One Measure, Health Care Law Is a Record Success