Posts Tagged ‘Obamacare’

WASHINGTON AND WINNERS

Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle headlined, “GOP near tax, health wins.” Mid-morning, the tax bill passed. Not a single Democrat voted yes. The New York Times reported, “Victory for G.O.P. as House Clears Way for Trump Signature.” I used to think winning only involved sports and the Oscars. My bad—and America’s.

Will the new tax law promote the general welfare? Trickle-down economics has failed in the past, but circumstances change in every generation. What concerns me more is the attitude in Congress and the White House—and it’s not new—that the most critical reason to pass legislation is to defeat the other party. “Winning” equates with moral superiority. Only secondarily do politicians consider the nation’s wellbeing.

The new tax law certainly will impact the economy short-term and long-. Republicans see the gross domestic product (GDP) soaring, bringing Washington increased tax revenues—at lower rates, of course—to counter the projected additional $1.5 trillion deficit.

Most Americans, however, don’t see themselves winning. According to cnbc.com, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Tuesday “shows that just 24 percent of Americans believe the president’s tax plan is a good idea – barely more than half of the 41 percent who call it a bad idea.” Moreover, “by an overwhelming 63 percent to 7 percent margin, Americans say the plan was designed to help corporations and the wealthy rather than the middle class.”

The same cnbc.com report states, “there are signs that the tax debate has taken a political toll on Republicans and the president alike.” Do the “winners” care? Stated cnbc.com, “Dozens of lawmakers stand to reap a tax windfall thanks to a loophole inserted in the sweeping GOP tax overhaul bill, according to a review of federal financial disclosures.”

Donald Trump may not have helped his and the Republican cause when on Wednesday he announced, “I shouldn’t say this, but we essentially repealed Obamacare.” Has he thrown the healthcare system into chaos? If so, how will millions of affected Americans respond?

Of course, the mega-rich—including Trump—will win big. A coterie of far-right political donors, including the Koch Brothers, will reap a major return on their investment not only in the Republican party and its candidates but also in political action committees, think tanks and trade associations, as well as shell organizations designed to hide their tax-deductible contributions. For the frightening details, read Jean Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

The new tax law also will provide more work for CPAs and tax attorneys. They always win with the arrival of new legislation.

So, short term, the economy and stock market may spike, boosting Republican hopes to hold both houses of Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. But the nation risks experiencing what one TV commentator termed “a sugar high”—a burst of economic energy followed by a crash. If so, Trump supporters also will feel pain. The deficit—once an object of Republican concern—may grow so large that even Democrats express heartfelt concern. And in 2025, most middle-class Americans’ taxes will go up.

Let’s get real. No legislation is perfect. But laws passed without a meaningful measure of bipartisan support deliver “wins” that leave more than the minority party as losers.

To you who celebrate Christmas—Merry Christmas! May the holiday renew your spirits. To all: Happy New Year!  

The post will break for a few weeks and return January 12.

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PRESIDENTIAL LEGACIES

During this season’s “House of Cards” (Netflix), the wife of the presidential candidate challenging the evil incumbent Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) says of her husband: “He has a chance to be a fine president. A great president.” Maybe. But presidents don’t create legacies, and those who think they do subject the nation to great and unnecessary risks.

We hear much about the Affordable Care Act being Barack Obama’s legacy. Obamacare represented just a step forward. American healthcare has a long way to go. Moreover, President Trump and Republicans vowed to “repeal and replace.” Will they? We’ll see. But I suspect Mr. Obama’s legacy will reflect not what he set out to do but what he had to do. (More later.)

I doubt George Washington took office thinking about his legacy rather than the job at hand. He had to react to the creation of a new form of government under the Constitution. During his eight years in office, Washington had to shape the executive branch from scratch. He also had to contend with the pioneering efforts of a newly devised Congress, Supreme Court and thirteen states. All had their own Constitutional visions. Washington’s legacy consists of navigating unchartered waters successfully.

Abraham Lincoln assumed office with the nation on the brink of splitting. Shortly after his inauguration, the nation toppled over the brink. Lincoln’s greatness lay not in promoting grand plans by which history would hail him but in meeting this daunting challenge—leading in ways about which he may never have given prior thought.

Yes, some presidents see opportunities. Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark across the west and spearheaded the Louisiana Purchase. But he did so in response to Napoleon and European geopolitics. Jefferson earned good grades. To assure peace after “the war to end all wars,” Woodrow Wilson pushed the establishment of the League of Nations following World War One, which America entered well into his prsidency. Congress balked. Ultimately, the League failed. Wilson’s reputation is spotty. Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Depression and did much to provide a safety net for Americans while pushing the economy towards recovery. FDR made mistakes along the way, but he’s idolized by many.

George H.W. Bush, with no legacy in mind, responded to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and ousted Iraqi forces in a 100-hour war. Then he withdrew American troops. His son George W. Bush responded to 9/11 with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The younger Mr. Bush, with little knowledge of the region, decided to remake the Middle East. History will not be kind.

Back to Barack Obama. Whatever he thought he might accomplish—health care reform being a massive item on his agenda—he entered the White House with the American economy unraveling. He responded by rescuing financial institutions “too big to fail.” For that, he’s been lauded and vilified. While time will offer new perspectives, I think his actions will establish a very positive legacy if one unplanned.

I’m baffled by people who believe that a president’s first concern should be his (and someday, her) legacy. All presidents can do is shoulder their burdens and meet challenges with their best efforts. The world mocks our plans, and history exercises its own judgement.

Have a great Fourth. And remember, you can purchase THE ODD PLIGHT OF ADONIS LICHT directly from me or at Amazon. If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

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CRYSTAL BALL 2014

What’s ahead in 2014? I polished my Swarovski crystal ball, and here’s what I saw…

— President Obama hands over healthcare.gov to Amazon. The revised website also offers medical supplies, vitamins and supplements, books and periodicals, hairpieces for men and women, and a button for making donations for site maintenance.

— Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann propose a real-American conservative think tank to oppose and eliminate Obamacare once and for all. Following six months of study, they release the organization’s name. It is to be known by the acronym ARACTTTOAEOOAFA—A Real-American Conservative Think Tank to Oppose and Eliminate Obamacare Once and For All.

— Dennis Rodman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un proclaim their engagement. This coincides with news that Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, met an untimely death while trying on a new evening gown purloined from Seoul’s top designer. Rodman and Kim, modeling matching wedding dresses, reveal that their ceremony will be held in a state-of-the-art basketball arena hand-built by 18,000 laborers volunteering to forego wages because of their devotion to the Great Leader.

— The National Basketball Association signs an agreement with North Korean manufacturers of jerseys and other merchandise thanks to 18,000 workers volunteering to forego wages because of their devotion to the Great Leader.

— Texas becomes the lone holdout against same-sex marriage after Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi throw in the (figurative) towel. Lame-duck governor Rick Perry promotes legislation that forbids men, including relatives, from making any form of physical contact with each other except while playing football. Still, the law bans fanny patting after big plays, post-game hugs and championship dog piles. The latter is punishable by a prison  term of not less than six months or more than fifty-seven years.

— In response to traffic congestion created by special buses taking legions of San Francisco tech workers to companies out of town, the Board of Supervisors proposes a subway running from Second and Mission Streets to Silicon Valley. The $250 billion project will be funded by a special tax on caffeinated espresso drinks and a twenty-five-cent per flush charge on residential toilets.

— In Teheran, 18,000 Iranians set a Guinness record by chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” nonstop for eleven days, seventeen hours, forty-two minutes and twenty-seven seconds. They protest the availability of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” on satellite TV. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei makes a speech lasting seventeen hours, forty-two minutes and twenty-seven seconds blaming the U.S. and “the Zionist entity” for the deaths of 4,332 of the patriotic demonstrators and the hospitalization of the remainder.

— Dennis Rodman splits “amicably” with Kim Jong Un and becomes the United States’ first ambassador to Iran since the 1979 revolution. He simultaneously stars in “Real Housewives of Teheran.”

— Rick Perry becomes U.S. ambassador to North Korea. At a Christmas news conference, he takes credit for influencing Kim Jong Un to establish North Korea’s first minimum wage. Based on Texas’ proven economic model, it provides workers 18 cents an hour in 2015 skyrocketing to 22 cents in 2024.

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Purchase my new novel The Boy Walker in soft cover or e-book format at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.

RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM

Many people believe that baseball represents a microcosm of life. I agree. And that goes for fans, too. They have lots to teach us about this nation, including the health-care arena.

I went to AT&T Park as a spur-of-the-moment thing after the Supreme Court’s June 28 decision on Obamacare. As the first inning began, I settled in for a relaxing day at the ballpark. But I couldn’t get quite as relaxed as I’d planned. A guy sat down next to me carrying nachos, two hot dogs and a beer. He must have weighed 250 while appearing to be no taller than me. “Sorry,” he said as his girth spread over our common elbow rest. “They don’t make the seats as big as they used to.” I wasn’t sure about seats in newer ballparks, but people seem to have grown larger.

I glanced at my neighbor. “No problem.” I noticed that he wore a ROMNEY 2012 pin on his Giants cap. I then took note of the sea of black Giants caps throughout the ballpark. Giants shirts, too. Not only players wear uniforms.

An inning or two later, the home-plate umpire made a disputed call on a strike. “What are you,” my neighbor bellowed at the ump, “John Roberts?” I turned to him. “Didn’t like the Supreme Court’s ruling, I take it.” He turned to me. “Roberts might as well be working for Obama. Not much of a president. But what do you expect when the country elects a guy who used to be a community organizer. I mean, America was built by rugged individualists.“

The organist started playing the four-note “Let’s go Giants” theme. Concurrently, the scoreboard urged everyone to “make some noise.” My neighbor started applauding while chanting along with much of the crowd. A Giants out quieted everyone.

He turned to me. “Remember John Wayne? It’s guys like that who built this country. Men, who only wanted to be left alone by the government and everyone else to live the way they wanted.” I mulled that over right up to the seventh-inning stretch. The P.A. announcer asked the audience to rise for “God Bless America” and remove their caps as well. Most did. Some didn’t. “I hate it when people leave their hats on,” my neighbor complained. “Well,” I said, “it’s not the National Anthem.” “Maybe not,” he answered, “but it shows disrespect for the country. You can’t have people taking their hats off or not just because that’s what they want to do.”

I reflected on Justice Roberts and his supportive position on the Affordable Care Act. Some Americans took their hats off to him for his decision. Others did not. That’s the way democracy works. And we’re a stronger nation because we can all be individuals and at the same time be part of a greater community even when we disagree.

I’d write more about the game, but my train of thought was disrupted when my neighbor stood as the wave approached our section and treated my lap to half his garlic fries.

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Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.