Saturday Report - The Medicaid "Hunger Games" have begun...
The Best of the Rest of the News
— Echoing the sentiments of Neil Howe’s new book The Fourth Turning Is Here, President Biden said this week: “There comes a time maybe every 6, 8 generations where the world changes in a very short time. We are at that time now, and I think what happens in the next 2-3 years is going to determine what the world looks like for the next 5 or 6 decades.” Our president is so right. This is a crisis moment for democracy around the world, as in country after country wealthy oligarchs rise up and seize control of entire governments. The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance just published a report noting that democratic norms and standards are falling back in nearly half of the 173 countries it looked at. Like here in the US, the cause is the same in most other countries: weakening government checks and balances, corruption, gerrymandered and voter-purged elections, and elected leaders following the example of Orbán and Trump and flouting the law with impunity. Thank G-d Joe Biden — who has an absolute commitment to democracy and the rule of law — is in charge of this nation right now instead of Trump. We must be active, rather than complacent, over the next 12 months.
— What’s the status of the countdown to government closure? Back on September 30th, Kevin McCarthy got a continuing resolution through the House that keeps our government open until the 17th of this month. After that, all bets are off. Republicans pissed away three weeks with Matt Gaetz’ juvenile stunt taking down McCarthy, and now a self-hating Christo-fascist dancing to the tune of billionaires who consider democracy an inconvenient hassle has the keys to that particular kingdom. MAGA Mike told us in his Thursday press conference that he fully intends to try to force massive cuts to domestic spending programs as the price for keeping our government functioning. And now we learn he’s also working with Republicans in the Senate to put together a 2023/2024 “Catfood Commission” to recommend ways Congress can cut back on Social Security and finish the privatization of Medicare. The majority of Americas are down with absolutely none of this, but that’s not stopping these true believers and their morbidly rich backers, who see Putin’s model for governance as preferable to the one Hamilton, Franklin, and Madison came up with. To keep our government open will require both the House and Senate passing acceptable versions of at least 12 major appropriations packages. None are even marked up in the House, where Republicans are instead holding farm supports and food stamps hostage to a demand that the FDA outlaw sending abortion pills through the mail. It’s like they’re trying to destroy our country, all on the assumption people will blame Joe Biden for it next November. Tommy Tuberville is tearing apart our military; Rand Paul is blocking the appointments of ambassadors; four Republican-controlled states have begun the process of ending free public primary education; MAGA Mike Johnson promises to gut the IRS; Trump and his acolytes promote distrust of our elections and courts; and Thursday night the House voted on amendments to reduce the salaries of the heads of the EPA and Interior department (the enemies of America’s oil and coal barons) to $1/year. Is there any part of the American experiment that today’s Republicans don’t hate? The chances of our getting through the next 12 months without a major crisis grow slimmer and slimmer every day.
— How hate is overwhelming America. Following the murder of an American 6-year-old boy by his landlord because his mother was Palestinian, hate is erupting all across the country. The Israel/Hamas war threatens the entire region and is tearing communities and colleges apart; both the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and the Muslim Council on American-Islamic Relations report that hate incidents are higher than either group has ever seen in their respective histories. This has been growing in America since the openly Nazi “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville during the first year of Trump’s presidency: their “very fine people” are now openly harassing and recruiting nationwide. A Fox News host questioned whether Wolf Blitzer’s parents were actually Holocaust survivors (they were) as billionaire Murdoch’s network revels in their successful efforts to pit Australians, Brits, and Americans at each others’ throats. Bigotry as a political weapon has gone from Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” dog whistle to Bush’s Willie Horton ads to Trump’s naked racism and daily encouragement of violence against our criminal justice system. When and where will it end? History suggests it’ll take truly horrific levels of hate and violence before people push back, but we still have a chance — in the elections 12 months from now — to step back from the abyss and embrace our fellow Americans and the rest of humanity. Will we take it? I’m betting we will, but it’s going to require all of us pitching in with our best efforts.
— The Texas activist who wants to end the separation of church and state has Mike Johnson’s ear. For decades, David Barton has been pushing phony history, cherry-picked anecdotes, and made-up quotes from a handful of America’s founders to argue that the actual intent of that generation was that America would be a Christian nation with the Bible at the center of our laws and customs. His scholarship (if you could call it that) is so bad that one of his publishers pulled and pulped one of his books: most of us thought he’d been consigned to the dustbin of history himself. But with the election of MAGA Mike to the speakership, Barton is getting a revival as one of Johnson’s buddies and teachers. “We have some tools at our disposal now (that) we haven’t had in a long time,” Barton said after a call with Johnson about staffing the Speaker’s office. While church attendance has been on a long and steady decline, particularly over the past 40 years as the GOP has politicized religion, the Christian church-and-state cultists have redoubled their efforts as wealthy believers pour money into their attempt to take over our government. Having one of their own just two heartbeats away from the presidency is a huge big deal, and a bad sign for those of us who agree with the Founders and Framers — and the Constitution — that mixing religion and politics is bad for American democracy.
— The UN called out Amazon and Walmart for the terrible way they treat their employees. America is the only developed country in the world where workers are paid crap wages (we are still stuck with a $7.25 minimum wage in red states across the country) to generate millions in profits for executives and stockholders worth billions, and the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has called out Amazon, WalMart, and DoorDash for it. From classifying employees as contractors to mandatory-attendance anti-union meetings to an utter lack of decent pay and benefits, Olivier De Schutter wrote to the three companies: “The concerns apply to many workers in the US, which relates to how the minimum wage is set in legislation, whether at federal or state level, wage theft by employers, unpredictable yet inflexible working schedules, the sake of undocumented workers, violation of union rights, and automation, these are the most important issues that apply across the workforce in the US.” Of course, if the GOP hadn’t kept the minimum wage so low for almost two decades, pushed Right To Work For Less laws on every Red state, and backstopped these companies’ policies none of this would be legal here, just as similar actions in every other developed country in the world would bring criminal sanctions to business owners. The good news is that American workers are waking up and the union movement in this country is more alive and vibrant than at any time since Reagan declared war on workers’ rights in 1981 when he destroyed PATCO. Step by step.
— Is the housing market headed for a 1980s style recession? Fed chair and lifelong Republican Jerome Powell insists he’s not “watching politics” as he puts the screws to the US economy just in time for an election that will almost certainly determine the survival of democracy in our nation. Of course, he’s lying through his teeth: such blindness is frankly impossible, and he has to know the stakes. And now cracks are beginning to indicate that the country is heading for a recession after the stimulus of the Christmas holidays: new home construction and home purchases are beginning to seriously collapse, a major early warning sign of trouble to come. The chief economist for Wells Fargo just said as much, arguing that: “A ‘higher for longer’ interest rate environment would likely not only weigh on demand, but could also constrain supply by reducing new construction and discouraging prospective sellers carrying low mortgage rates from listing their homes for sale.” Brilliant. Not only will Powell’s persistent efforts (we’re now below what used to be considered “normal” 3% inflation) crash the economy, but they’ll also exacerbate our nation’s homelessness crisis. Just what Donald Trump and the GOP ordered.
— The “Hunger Games” for Medicaid have begun. When Covid hit America, Democrats in Congress passed legislation to give everybody without health insurance access to Medicaid. Now that Republicans have taken back the House, they’ve forced the law to expire and Red states have already thrown over 10 million low-income Americans off their coverage just in the past few months. Hospitals and doctors’ offices are reporting huge numbers of people no-showing for appointments and tests, meaning more people will end up diagnosed with conditions too far along to treat when they’re finally in so much pain or so sick that they show up in the ER. Why do Republicans hate low-income families? Is it because they still buy the myth that most are racial minorities? Or are they just mean and hateful people more generally?
— Why Trump is wrong that he’s exempt from the 14th Amendment. Colorado and Minnesota currently have court actions underway to determine if Trump’s incitement of the January 6th insurrection disqualifies him from holding public office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Trump is claiming that his presidential oath doesn’t require him to “support” the Constitution because that oath only requires him to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” Few are buying it, although preventing him from appearing on multiple states’ ballots rather than beating him at the polls could give new life to the victim routine that so endears him to his cult followers. Keep an eye on this one: it could be a two edged sword.
— Crazy Alert! MAGA Mike thinks the fall of the Roman Empire was due to “rampant homosexual behavior.” Seriously. Johnson so hates queer people that he’s now blaming them for the 2000-year-ago fall of the Roman Empire. Perhaps