Thursday, October 19, 2017

Coal Hard Facts

In death throes for decades now, accelerating fast, king coal has been dethroned, denied and denigrated by most of the world. Everywhere, including the United States notwithstanding inane political promises to restore a moribund coal generating industry, coal is being replaced by alternative energy. “China’s installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity more than doubled last year, turning the country into the world’s biggest producer of solar energy by capacity, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said...” Reuters, February 17th. Although still a huge polluter, China dominates the world in the manufacture of solar panels and wind-power generators, made fast and cheap, just as the U.S. deprioritized these valuable job-creating manufactures and created new policies pushing for non-existent jobs in “Dead Coal.” The signs of government-promulated industrial resurrection, rare as they are, draw rather strong negative reactions… like this effort in Australia.
In the fourth leading extractor of coal in the world, where a lot of jobs depend on the export of coal (Australia is using less and less of the toxic substance every year – only 12% of Aussie coal is used domestically), “The Australian government is considering a proposal to build one of the world’s largest coal mines in this remote locale, known as the Galilee Basin [in Abbot Point], where acacia and eucalyptus trees grow wild between scattered creeks.
“An Indian conglomerate, the Adani Group, has asked for a taxpayer-financed loan of as much as $800 million to make the enormous project viable, promising to create thousands of jobs in return.” New York Times, October 14th. This effort would double Aussie output. But there is something about such a hypocritical effort – especially in an era of the Paris climate change accord to which Australia is a signatory – that rubs Australians the wrong way. Though wavering, the current government was elected in part on the promise of “more jobs” (sound familiar) and stands behind this project. After all, this coal would be virtually entirely exported.
“But the plan has met intense opposition in Australia and abroad, focusing attention on a question with global resonance: Given the threat of climate change and the slowing global demand for coal, does the world really need another giant mine, especially at the public’s expense?
“Adani has proposed building six open-cut pits and five underground complexes capable of producing as much as 66 million tons of coal a year. New infrastructure to support the mine — a rail line to the coast and an expanded port — would also make it economically feasible to extract coal from at least eight additional sites in the Galilee Basin…
“‘How it can be constructed — at a time when the whole world is committed to move away from fossil fuels — is madness that most people just can’t understand,’ said Geoffrey Cousins, president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
“The project, known as the Carmichael mine, has provoked strong resistance in part because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder that is already dying because of overheated seawater blamed on climate change. Adani plans to deliver most of the coal to India on shipping routes that critics say would further damage the ecosystem of the world’s greatest system of reefs.
“The debate over the mine has dominated headlines in Australia for months and fueled one of the most fervent environmental campaigns in the nation’s history. Protests have grown in size and frequency, and polls show Australians who oppose the mine outnumber those who support it by more than two-to-one… A group of Indigenous Australians is also challenging Adani’s claim to the land… ‘This is a tipping point,’ said Maree Dibella, a coordinator of the North Queensland Conservation Council, referring to the mine’s role in the global campaign against coal.” NY Times. Because that coal would not be used locally, because India wants more coal, there would be less of an impact locally. It’s somewhat different here in the United States, and while we do export coal, we also tend to use most of what is produced locally… less and less every year
In West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky… coal-producing states… the story is pretty much the same. Coal mines and coal-driven industries are shutting down. In Homer City, Pennsylvania, “Locals look out their windows to see whether there are clouds drifting from the massive smokestacks, indicating the hulking plant is still running. If they don’t see any, they wonder whether the owners have thrown in the towel for good...
“As the Trump administration dismantles one of the world’s most aggressive programs to confront climate change, it is invoking the suffering of communities like this one, where the coal power plant that anchors the economy teeters on insolvency… Yet as the administration declares an end to what it calls the ‘war on coal,’ Homer City isn’t any less under siege.
“The plant is an albatross to investors, and a source of increasing anxiety to the hundreds of Pennsylvanians who rely on it for their livelihood. It is likely to remain a loser financially no matter how far President Trump rolls back regulations… ‘I’m not sold on the fact that the war on coal is putting that power plant out of business,’ said Nymick, pointing to competition from cheaper natural gas, solar and wind energy.
“Other U.S. coal facilities are also finding no salvation in the elimination of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, a move the Trump administration promised would reinvigorate them… A fresh round of closures expected to cost at least 850 jobs was announced by Vistra Energy in Texas last week, even as the administration launched its repeal of landmark regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
“‘The Clean Power Plan is not what hurt coal,’ said Michael Wara, a professor of energy law at Stanford. ‘It is hard to hurt someone more when they were already mortally wounded.’… That’s put the administration in an awkward place. Officials strained to show that repeal of the Obama-era rules would boost the economy, using financial assumptions that many experts dispute — but even so the plan doesn’t do much for the sagging coal industry.
“A coal revival would require more than a Clean Power Plan repeal. It would require a bailout, an even less popular option that the administration is also pushing. The Energy Department’s plan to force regional electricity grids to buy large amounts of coal, unveiled days before the Clean Power Plan repeal was made public, is getting a hostile reception. Oil and gas companies are joining solar and wind advocates to fight the move… ‘The entire energy economics and energy law community thinks it is a crazy proposal,’ Wara said of the subsidy plan.” Los Angeles Times, October 15th.
So if the U.S. and perhaps the Australian governments are pushing coal projects forward, even though that an impossible task here in the United States, how could those damaged from fossil fuel-driven climate change and simple pollution use the legal system at least to make those who produce these toxic products pay for what they have done?
The realities is that fossil fuel polluters – from those who extract these carbon products to those who use them massively – have never born the hard dollar costs of the resulting medical toxicity and physical damage… even though they have known the realities for a very long time. It has recently come to the surface how these corporate interests, now very much in the pocket of the Trump administration, have paid even high profile academics from prestigious institutions to release purportedly objective scholarly works denying or minimalizing what they knew was accelerating damage from the use of fossil fuels. We’ve been here before.
We were sold a bill of goods by the tobacco industry (see the old ads promulgated by “King Tobacco” half a century ago) with the same campaigns and the same efforts. We found out, they paid billions of dollars for what they did, and their products are restricted and labeled accordingly. But they had individual victims without inflicting the kinds of damage that fossil-fuel-driven global warming is unequivocally creating today. So if the feds are bought and paid for by these industries, perhaps it is time to use to same campaign against the purveyors of massive use of fossil fuels.
“Meanwhile, [in San Francisco,] the city attorney’s office has decided to try a new approach. On September 19, San Francisco filed suit against five of the nation’s largest oil companies demanding they pay for the updates the city needs to protect its residents against climate change. The suit, filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, argues that the corporations—Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP—promoted fossil fuels as “environmentally responsible and essential to human well-being” amid multiple warnings that the planet was in danger.
“The lawsuit cites a slew of examples alleging that the oil companies continued promoting their product when they knew it would harm the environment. A 1968 Stanford Research Institute report, for example, warned the American Petroleum Institute and its members (which includes all of the defendants) that sea level rise and changes to the earth’s environment were almost certain. ‘There seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe,’ the report reads.” Mother Jones, October 14h. I’m Peter Dekom, and where government policies are out-and-out stupid or seriously conflicted, it may well be time for those impacted to pick up the legal sword and use it.
I’m Peter Dekom, and these inane pro-fossil fuel social and environmental costs are a challenge to human existence, as the recent spate of fires and hurricanes has rather clearly illustrated.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Realignment: Socialism with Chinese Characteristics

As the United States becomes increasingly isolated – ruled by a man who seems to hold the other two branches of government (judiciary and Congress) with alarming disdain – global relationships are changing fast, some obvious… and others under the surface. Most of our traditional allies, at least those who remain with us, have moved from fellows in the promulgation of full global democracy to reluctant allies with what the Economist calls the United States: a flawed democracy. Our strongest supporters, the Likud coalition in Israel (with leader Bibi Netanyahu under a major corruption investigation), and the Tory government in the U.K. (flailing to implement an increasingly unattractive Brexit path, losing voter appeal every day), are themselves facing a new level of isolation as well.
What power the United States does have is a massive economy backed by the most powerful military in the world. There is little international respect for Donald Trump; his boisterous, tweet-driven bully politics that shift daily, sometimes hourly, have alienated most global leaders… as well as their constituencies. As Trump reverses decades of our international commitments – under the internationally despised “America First” slogan – the United States is no longer a trusted and reliable partner in much of anything.
We have lost any moral legitimacy as a world leader, and as we pull economic support from developing nations, there is rejoicing in certain distant global capitals, particularly Moscow and Beijing. Russia seems to be hell-bent in fomenting increased polarization in its disturbing and rather significant use of fake news across American social media, but if sowing dissention in the good old USA was their goal, they have found the perfect ally in Donald Trump.
But China is the nation with the economic and military resources to replace American supremacy as quickly as we cede that authority. Almost as soon as we pull out of any developing nation, Chinese officials are on the spot, ready to take our place, garnering exclusive access to lucrative resources (from agricultural leases across the massive Great Rift Valley in Africa to mineral and fossil fuel rights all over the developing world). You can expect China to accelerate negotiating for the right to establish PRC military bases all over the world as part of the price for it to provide economic aid to nations who no longer see any value in prioritizing relationships with the United States, a nation they believe has simply gone rogue. And once those ties are signed, sealed and delivered, there is almost no likelihood for the United States to come back and resume its past glory within any foreseeable timeline.
The plunge in American credibility has also given developing nations pause in what was once believed to be best form of government on earth: democracy. If democracy can produce modern America, gun crazy, angry and highly polarized, then maybe there is another more reliable political model. It has not escaped the developing world, that the People’s Republic of China has lifted over a billion people out of dire poverty, creating the largest middle class in the world, in a matter of just a few decades.
Effectively, this one-party system – born of ruthless suppression and a Maoist era with two horrifically failed programs (the Great Leap Forward program of the early 1960s and the Cultural Revolution that ended in the mid-1970s) – has settled into a new and vastly more sophisticated era, beginning with Deng Xiaoping in the post-Mao period. Party leaders – charged with “representing the Chinese people” but without a direct popular election – are groomed by the Party from the time they leave college up through the ranks to top Communist Party positions. President Xi Jinping (center above, at the opening of the 19th Congress) made that journey.
With billionaire entrepreneurs – a stark contract to the drab green-gray uniformity of Maoist China – staggering numbers of ultra-modern high rises, floods of shiny new cars driving on highways without potholes, upscale shops in major cities brimming with customers reflect what some view as the ultimate hypocrisy: a communist country with a whole lot of rich oligarchs and a middle class in numbers greater than the entire population of the United States. You don’t have too far to look for the old China… poverty in the hinterlands far from this modern urban sprawl… or understand the pervasive corruption within the PRC power elite… to understand that all is hardly perfect. But in a world that has long accepted the Taoist “harmony of opposites,” this apparent political inconsistency is simply “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
After Chairman Deng, under a then new 10-year maximum tenure rule, China installed an effective but not particularly charismatic Jiang Zemin, who was followed by Hu Jintao, a man who has been described as a leader with the personality of a stick. In 2012, the Politburo moved what they felt was an easily controlled Xi Jinping to the top spot… but Xi had other plans. He rapidly purged those who did not fully support him, moved his people into key positions and began a publicity program that seems to have elevated him to the same level of cult status enjoyed only my Mao and Xiaoping in the communist era. His anti-corruption program has wide popular support and has given him powerful tools to consolidate his power. In 2017, that same UK-based Economist called Xi “the most powerful man in the world.”
Through his military assertion over a man-enhanced island in the Spratly islands (South China Sea) to his emphasis on building a powerful inter-Asian bloc under his “One Belt and One Road” (“OBOR”) initiative, Xi has been anything but subtle that China, and NOT the United States, is the dominant regional power. This OBOR program will ultimately reach across Asia, the Middle East, and create a new extended link (air, sea and rail) all the way to Europe itself. China’s power will travel with that network, at the expense of American influence.
While North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un is carving his own path, making it clear that he is not China’s lackey, he knows that the PRC would never tolerate a direct border with South Korea, home to a major US military presence. Hence China’s reluctance to topple his regime. With that fly in the ointment, President Xi has taken steps to become an unstoppable power in China, perhaps extending his governance beyond that ten-year rule.
China’s 19th Party Congress began on October 18th in Beijing. “The Congress occurs every five years, and is an opportunity to understand the Chinese leadership’s vision for the direction of the country. 2017’s Congress is slated to be Xi Jinping’s show, as he solidifies his power and appoints his political allies to the Standing Committee of the Politburo.” The Cipher Brief, October 18th. We have much to watch during and after this most significant Congress.
To understand what is happening in Beijing better, former acting CIA director, John McLaughlin, makes these observations in The Cipher Brief: [President Xi] has certainly centralized decision-making and tightened the leadership’s grip on the party — or at least his personal grip. Xi has done this mainly through an extensive anti-corruption campaign — no issue has more political salience in China than corruption.  Although the [Communist] party asserted last year that more than a million of its 89 million members had been probed, there is still great skepticism within the party and the public that this has successfully rooted out corrupt practices.
On the economy, Xi and the party are still struggling.  Chinese growth, hovering around the 7 percent range, is the lowest in 25 years.  The old model of cheap labor producing cheap exports is wearing thin.  China’s model is a victim of its own success as increasing prosperity has pushed up wages, raised manufacturing costs, and made businesses less competitive… Xi has also shied away from cutting deeply into the big state-owned enterprises that make up more than 30 percent of the economy and are the source of much corruption…
We may not see an overt move by Xi to stay beyond the traditional two-term limit.  One sign that he is however laying the groundwork for that would be if he manages to get himself enshrined in the constitution by name for his ‘thought’ or ‘theory’; the only predecessors so honored are Mao as the modern country’s founder and Deng Xiaoping, as its first great economic reformer…
[China] is a rival of the United States and wants to limit U.S. influence and access in Asia in particular — while maintaining an overall atmosphere of cooperation. Xi has pushed a restructuring of the military aimed at more joint operations and a strengthening of its capabilities in cyber, electronic warfare and mobility — all of this aimed at strengthening its ability to limit access and maneuver by the U.S. and other powers in the Asian theater.
Meanwhile, China has taken some tentative steps to assume broader leadership responsibilities by extensive participation in UN peacekeeping, expansion of port visits and facilities outside Asia, and endorsement of climate accords. It deeply saddens me to watch American influence wane, to see Americans fight each other while clinging to the rather mistaken belief that we can still force the rest of the world to do our bidding. Every day, increasing numbers of global players are simply building a new “work around” the United States and what is left of our rapidly dwindling global power.
I’m Peter Dekom, and I remain stunned at how rapidly American power and influence in the world has declined and equally how quickly China’s power his risen to supplant it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Less than Censusational

The demography of the United States is changing. As diversity increases in blue cities and states, often where the best universities are, there are disturbing trends elsewhere where knowledge-based employment has simply not taken root. Iowa is the poster-child for this phenomenon, once a bastion of liberal thought in the middle of rural America, a swing state in national politics, the same state that helped put Barack Obama in the White House voted for Donald Trump.
“Iowa’s dramatic change has been both abrupt and a long time in coming. In 2008, the state propelled Mr. Obama to the White House. A year later, it was the first in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage. But last November, Mr. Trump won Iowa by a larger margin than he won Texas. And now Republicans control the governor’s office, the Legislature, both Senate seats and three of four in the House…
“[There] has been no significant transformation to a knowledge-based economy, with wide stretches where the jobs are better suited to those with less education. The result is that a state that thrives on trade has a regrettable net export: some of its best-educated people.
“‘We educate the hell out of our people, but our economy can’t use them, so they leave,’ said Dave Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University who has documented the exodus of college graduates from the state.
“Iowa’s high school graduation rate still leads the nation, but those who go on to four-year colleges often find themselves with limited prospects in areas outside the robust economy of Des Moines and its suburbs and often leave after graduating…
“[Bill Jacobs, Clinton County chairman notes:] ‘There is so much pressure to get the education and move somewhere else.’… Mr. Jacobs also felt the downturn in the economy in a personal way. A college professor for years, he was laid off from his most recent position at Ashford University. The school shut down all but online operations here.
“The exodus [of college-educated young people who tend to be more liberal] is not good news for Democrats… ‘Voting behavior of the college educated versus the high school educated is driving everything right now,’ said David Kochel, a prominent Republican strategist in the state, who added that there was a ‘growing resentment of elites in both parties, but it definitely favors Republicans, and is a structural benefit to Republicans.’…
“Tom Vilsack, a Democrat who served two terms as governor before becoming agriculture secretary in the Obama administration, said in an interview that his party had failed to grasp the way voters in small towns and rural areas felt that their way of life had been threatened… ‘It’s a much deeper set of reasons and longer-occurring set of circumstances,’ Mr. Vilsack said. ‘It’s interesting to look at a single election cycle, but it’s much more profound than that.’
“He quickly checked off the reasons. The agricultural economy has become more efficient and needs fewer farmers. Globalization set off a decline in domestic manufacturing. Small towns shriveled. Schools consolidated. Hospitals closed. Resentment festered… ‘Over all, people saw economic opportunity leave,’ he said. ‘Then they saw their kids and grandkids leave. They are seeing everything that they are about leave. It’s a tough emotional thing over time.’” New York Times, October 14th. Less-educated Iowa is turning bright red.
Elsewhere, the opposite is happening, particularly in states with large cities, almost always more liberal than their surrounding rural communities. Blue rising. Diversity is growing fast, immigration policies notwithstanding, and most of those non-white-traditionalists lean heavily Democrat. Meanwhile the every-decade U.S. Census is fast approaching – 2020. But the Census Bureau is woefully underfunded, with many on the conservative side of the equation – claiming a need for fiscal responsibility – who do not want to give that Bureau what it really needs to reach into the nooks and crannies they missed in 2010.
That type of outreach both increases accuracy and tends to pick up minorities who are more likely to vote Democratic. Underfund the outreach, deprioritize that effort, and those constituencies will reap rewards for Republicans, both in terms of cutting federal funds to such minorities and in defining political districts to favor them.
There is, however, a modest Republican effort in Congress to increase the budget for the Census Bureau, but that is more a push to move the Bureau from cumbersome paper-driven information gathering, aggregation and reporting to more modern (and ultimately less expensive) computerized systems that are used by most of the developed countries around the world. The money needed for to maximize that outreach program is simply not a material part of that budgetary increase despite lip-service to the contrary.
“Of the 43 technology systems the bureau is supposed to prepare for testing in 2018, only four have completed development and 21 have some functionality. The department also canceled two sites for testing in West Virginia and Washington State.
“Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) said it appeared officials were repeating the mistakes they made in 2010, when the bureau came close to utilizing new technology but had to switch back to paper-and-pencil reporting at the last minute. ‘We get promises that are never delivered on,’ Hice said at the hearing.
“While it is widely agreed that implementing new technology is a good cost-saving measure, some are worried that it will make it even harder to reach communities that are already unlikely to respond… Members of marginalized groups, including those who are poor, black, LGBT, immigrants and people in rural areas, are historically less likely to participate in the census.
“In the past, the government has successfully increased participation using a massive outreach program with a focus on advertising and communication efforts, education and partnerships with community organizations… A lack of funding for these programs or a slow start to outreach efforts could lead to undercounting, particularly of groups that are historically not well-represented.
“‘It’s deeply important that the Commerce Department and Census Bureau consult with stakeholders who are in these communities,’ said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. ‘When your constituents are not counted in the census, they remain invisible for the next 10 years.’
“The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People filed a lawsuit against the department this month to compel it to release information about its plans for the 2020 census to ensure it is committed to addressing undercounting of these communities.” Los Angeles Times, October 15th.
Where will this lead this nation? We are already very, very far from one person, one vote. The emphasis on states over cities, inherent in the Constitution (e.g., two Senators each from sparsely populated rural states as well as states with as much as thirty times greater populations), produces a rural vote with almost double the voting power of an urban vote.
You’d think that we would all agree, however, that we need an accurate count of who where are and where our highly diverse population actually live. Not really. Too bad Republican incumbents seem committed to excluding any voter that would balance the scales, reflect the actual population, because that would add more power to Democrats. This explains gerrymandering, voter limitations and that tend to deny access to minorities who vote Democratic… as well as make sure the Census Bureau remains underfunded and that the outreach program be contained.
I’m Peter Dekom, and these efforts truly make a mockery of our claim to be a full-on democracy.

Monday, October 16, 2017

He Now Owns It

Coming out from behind the shadows of meaningless tweets and hidden threats to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA, which is known as Obamacare), Donald Trump has now officially taken steps to insure that the ACA will fail. With two new executive orders and in defiance of the plain intention of the statute itself – at a time when the ACA was beginning to stabilize and actually work – the President is pulling the financial underpinnings of the law out from under the program. If courts do not rule against these efforts, the ACA will for the most part collapse. But by issuing these executive orders, his dream of being able to blame President Obama and the Democrats – something Trump and his base still cling to – also just died. The collapse of the ACA is clearly going to be the fault of Trump, Trump, Trump.
“President Trump will scrap subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket costs of low-income people, the White House said late Thursday [10/12]. His plans were disclosed hours after the president ordered potentially sweeping changes in the nation’s insurance system, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers.
“The twin hits to the Affordable Care Act could unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, sending insurance premiums soaring and insurance companies fleeing from the health law’s online marketplaces. After Republicans failed to repeal the health law in Congress, Mr. Trump appears determined to dismantle it on his own.
“Without the subsidies, insurance markets could quickly unravel. Insurers have said they will need much higher premiums and may pull out of the insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act if the subsidies were cut off. Known as cost-sharing reduction payments, the subsidies were expected to total $9 billion in the coming year and nearly $100 billion in the coming decade.
“‘The government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments,’ the White House said in a statement… It concluded that ‘Congress needs to repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people.’” New York Times, October 12th.  Under these orders, states can now apply to the federal government for waivers to implement their own plans, expected to have lower premiums but with significantly lesser coverage (opening the door for higher premiums for those with preexisting conditions) and unaffordable deductibles. The pulling of the subsidies pretty much destabilizes the insurance market, and we can expect fewer carriers to stay in the healthcare exchange system… with higher prices for those companies electing to remain.
Bottom line, if you do not have healthcare through your work – unless you live in a state that cares – and you are not earning enough to afford real coverage, when it comes to medical care, you are probably screwed. And in the developed world, the United States of America is the only country where that can happen.
These orders also represent an interesting and hopefully legally incorrect interpretation of the plain meaning of the ACA, but that issue is well underway within the judicial process based on a 2014 federal case (United States House of Representatives v. Burwell) filed by GOP Republicans in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
In September of 2015, “a federal district court in Washington, DC ruled that the House of Representatives had standing to bring claims against the Obama administration regarding healthcare spending under the Affordable Care Act. That is, the court found that the House could sue the administration for spending billions of dollars on the ACA subsidies that Congress allegedly never approved. The ruling is the first to allow the House to sue an administration regarding its spending ability.” Thehealthlawpulse.com, September 10, 2015
But fault may be irrelevant if the ACA fails. That could literally force the “repeal and replace” GOP movement to provide what Trump hopes is the “only alternative.” Trump isn’t running in the mid-terms; it’s a Congressional election. The full impact of these executive orders, particularly if they are stayed by the courts pending higher court resolution, might not be felt by those 2018 elections, although carriers leaving the system could have an immediate result.
Most of the changes will not occur until federal agencies write and adopt regulations implementing them. The process, which includes a period for public comments, could take months. That means the order will probably not affect insurance coverage next year, but could lead to major changes in 2019.” New York Times. After the mid-terms and late enough that the full impact might not roil American until 2020 or beyond… when the next presidential election will take place.
But negative reaction to these executives order was quick in coming… from both sides of the aisle, noting that even in some pretty key GOP Congressional districts, the impact on local constituents could be devastating. “In a joint statement, the top Democrats in Congress, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, said Mr. Trump had ‘apparently decided to punish the American people for his inability to improve our health care system.’
“‘It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,’ they said. ‘Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.’
“Lawmakers from both parties have urged the president to continue the payments. Mr. Trump had raised the possibility of eliminating the subsidies at a White House meeting with Republican senators several months ago. At the time, one senator told him that the Republican Party would effectively ‘own health care’ as a political issue if the president did so.
“‘Cutting health care subsidies will mean more uninsured in my district,’ Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter late Thursday [10/12]. She added that Mr. Trump ‘promised more access, affordable coverage. This does opposite.’” New York Times. In the end, the United States is not a particularly good place to live if you are in the middle and lower income brackets or if you are a member of a racial or religious minority on the white traditionalist target list… and if you are poor, God help you… a parallel to what it is like living in Puerto Rico right now.
I’m Peter Dekom, and for too many Americans, day-to-day life in the United States seems increasingly to violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.