Support the Timberjay by making a donation.

Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Think the political parties are all the same? Think again

Posted

Have you ever heard anyone say, “Oh, those politicians are all the same. There’s no difference between the parties. They’re all just out for themselves.”

Perhaps you’ve said it yourself, forgetting all that has been accomplished over the years to improve lives.

Many younger people may not understand the battles fought for the benefits we enjoy. The Democratic party brought you the weekend, and so much more, so sit back, relax, and take it all in.

Social Security.

Medicare and Medicaid.

Affordable Care Act.

Food safety.

The New Deal.

The Great Society.

The Peace Corps.

The Job Corps.

Civil rights.

Women’s right to vote.

The Voting Rights Act.

The Equal Pay Act.

Consumer protection.

FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).

Banking and Wall Street regulations.

SEC Federal Reserve Commission.

Funding for science and medical research.

The National Institute of Health.

Support for free public education.

Head Start.

School lunch and breakfast programs.

NLRB (National Labor Relations Board).

The eight-hour work day and 40-hour work week.

Overtime pay.

Unemployment pay.

Protection of the environment.

Endangered Species Act.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).

Veterans benefits.

The GI Bill.

The United Nations.

The Marshall Plan.

Vehicle safety requirements.

Reduced emissions.

Fuel economy standards. Federal loan programs. Economic growth under Democratic Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt through Barack Obama.

Let’s take a look at some of what the Trump administration has brought us so far. In spite of the fact the U.S. has been experiencing the second-longest economic expansion since the post-World War II boom, annual deficits (when Congress spends more than it takes in through tax revenues) are expected to average $1.2 trillion over the next ten years or 4.4 percent of gross domestic product. The average for the last 50 years has been 2.9 percent. Public debt has increased $2 trillion since Trump was elected, reaching the unprecedented level of over $22 trillion (Statistics from the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO).

The Trump administration has been consistently hostile to the idea that all Americans have a right to a decent life, including health care. He practices double-speak reminiscent of the novel “1984.” (“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”) In early October, he told a crowd of Florida seniors, “We’ll always protect the Medicare benefits you earned and paid for,” saying he would defend Medicare from the “socialist” Medicare-for-All proposal. In fact, the same day, he signed the “Executive Order on Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors” that aimed at increasing reimbursements closer to the levels paid in the commercial insurance market. Currently, Medicare reimbursements are 40-percent lower to physicians, and hospitals receive half to two-thirds of what they receive from private insurers. U.S. health care costs are the highest in the world, and the Medicare level of reimbursements reduces the inflated costs and profits. To increase reimbursements to mimic commercial insurance would send Part B premiums soaring and would bankrupt Medicare.

A second prong of so-called protection in that executive order is the promotion of Medicare Advantage plans, flooding seniors with advertisements, seducing them with the offering of additional services while selecting the lowest-cost seniors out of the Medicare pool. One-third of all Medicare recipients use Medicare Advantage plans as compared to Medigap plans, many not realizing when they sign up that the plans restrict which doctors and hospitals patients can use. Some plans have improperly denied care in order to increase profits, so the older, sicker seniors are more likely to drop the plan. On top of that, Medicare Advantage plans have overcharged Medicare by $30 billion in the last three years alone.

Let’s review that list in the second paragraph once again. How many of those programs has the Trump administration taken aim at reducing or gutting? How is it that they can promote these draconian measures?

It’s partly because a lot of people aren’t paying attention or can’t believe what’s really happening. A policy of tax cuts, intended to “starve the beast” as Republicans like to say, has been used since the Reagan administration. Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, also a veteran of the Reagan administration, argued in a 1996 Wall Street Journal op-ed that “Tax cuts impose a restraint on the size of government. Tax cuts will starve the beast…” meaning that a frenzy of fear about deficits can be whipped up so the public thinks that cuts must be made in public programs with “…market solutions to the problems of Social Security, health care, education and the environment.”

In a nutshell, the Trump administration would like to deregulate everything, gut Social Security, and privatize Medicare and many other public programs: public education, prisons, federal jobs, VA health care, air traffic control, roads and bridges, and public lands and national monuments. This, in spite of the fact that studies have shown that public-private partnerships (PPPs) are expensive and inefficient. A report by the Brookings Institution found that PPPs “have been dogged by contract design problems, waste, and unrealistic expectations.” Contractors may cost two to three times more, with the profit going into corporate pockets and the costs landing on private citizens.

AFGS (American Federation of Government Employees) President J. David Cox Sr. said, “When we privatize, we’re padding the pockets of CEOs and giving up key aspects of our democratic control. Our government exists for the common good, to make our lives better. We need to fully fund our government programs, not diverting public money to enrich millionaires and billionaires.”

Jen Hofman, a young woman who wanted to make a difference, developed the Americans of Conscience Checklist (americansofconscience.com), a weekly online list highlighting current legislation, actions to take like writing elected officials, suggestions for keeping inspired, and good news from around the country, such as that L.A. teachers opposed tax breaks for Exxon and work to strengthen funding for schools and that the Supreme Court upheld a block on the current president’s asylum ban. Hofman said she learned the power of working together, saying that we celebrate the myth of the self-made man, “but even he had caring teachers, access to education, dependable roads, and (hopefully) a safe community in which to become his own success story. When we acknowledge our interconnectedness, we become stronger.”

If the disrespect and hatred that Trump and his cronies spit out is appalling to you, I would encourage you to use your voice, your feet, and your money to work on those issues that matter to you. I think we all can find ways to help others, to trust others to help us, and together make a difference in our communities and our country.

op-ed

Comments

18 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Steve Jacobson

Yet, because of the same-o, same-o politics of the Democratic Party half the people in the US will again vote for Trump. Why is that. All the major candidates are promising free this and free that yet.....

So, the Democrats are scared that Trump will win the election again? I know, let's spend all our resources and time getting him impeached before he has a chance to win an election.

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Ilk

Steve,

Actually only 46% voted for Trump and 48% voted for Clinton which works out to nearly 3 million people. I know that is an inconvenient truth but such it is. Free stuff? Where is that free wall Mexico was going to build and how about that trillion dollar tax cut that is blowing up the deficit.

Democrats do fear Trump will get elected again but hold no false hope the sycophant Republicans in the Senate could ever defend the constitution. They are worried that they might suffer a Presidential tweet.

The Democrats will tell the story of Trump using bribery to get another country to dig up dirt on his political opponent. They will do so using Trump’s own words, those of his own appointment and those of civil servants with long distinguished standing. History will do it’s justice to all.

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Steve Jacobson

It must give Democrats the "Warm Fuzzies" to know that Clinton got 3 million more votes than Trump. Most likely the same feeling I get each day knowing that Trump is our President!

Friday, November 8, 2019
Scott Atwater

Fake news expert Betty Firth shows us that any political party can look good if you only tell half of the story.

Some not so shining moments of the party that Betty neglected to tell you about: Democrats resisted the abolition of slavery to the point of a civil war, established Jim Crow laws, supported segregation, and was responsible for 75% of the voting opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights act. Robert Byrd, the longest serving senator in our nation's history, was a member of the KKK. The hero of the Democratic party, Franklin Roosevelt, signed executive order 9066 placing 127,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps in 1942. Lyndon Johnson, in his wisdom took the country into the Vietnam war, escalated our involvement, then refused to run for a second term to clean up his mess.

The history remains to be written on the 2016 presidential election. Did a sitting administration use the intelligence agencies to spy on a political opposition party? Do remnants of said administration continue to undermine the presidency to this day? Is a Democratic controlled congress going to impeach a sitting president on flimsy accusations because they fear that he can't be beat in an election? Time will tell, but get off that high horse Betty, No political party has claim to the moral high ground......most assuredly the one that you follow so blindly.

Friday, November 8, 2019
jtormoen

Oh, good. He is back. Putt putt, I ask again ... "What is it about fascism that you find so appealing?"

Steve is free to pop in with an answer too. I pretty much question all who offer support for herr Trump.

Oh, and wondering if fake news is much like fake commenting? Inquiring minds ...

Friday, November 8, 2019
Scott Atwater

jtormoen, you demented old stalker, shouldn't you be out patrolling the local restaurants for people wearing MAGA hats?

Friday, November 8, 2019
jtormoen

Just ignore this deflection folks ... kinda a continuing pattern of behavior.

I understand he picked up the habit from one who inhabits the White House ... or is that more fake news.

Seems most everything is ... hmmmmm .... perhaps that too is in the "deflection handbook".

Watch and see

Friday, November 8, 2019
Lee Peterson

Thank you, Betty, for the excellent article and the sane follow-up letter this week. It is refreshing. The majority is with you.

Thursday, November 14, 2019
Steve Jacobson

Is this the same majority that is against mining but saw their anti mining candidate get whipped in the election? The same majority that saw Stauber win the election?

Friday, November 15, 2019
Lee Peterson

Just to keep the facts straight, Joe Radinovich was not anti mining.

Sunday, November 17, 2019
Steve Jacobson

Yes he was! I believe his exact statement (one that is repeated by all who are against mining but want to get elected) "I support mining if they can prove that it won't hurt the environment and they perform many years of testing and submittals" That is the reason he didn't lose by a landslide like the gentleman from Cook county who outwardly proclaimed to be anti-mining.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019
bonfire

As many reliable economists predicted, the Republican 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not deliver as the taxcutters promised and bragged about. Instead of the promised $4,000 more in your paycheck, the average worker bonus in 2018 was just 0.01% higher than in 2017. When corporate tax rate were slashed from 35% to 21%, it should not be a surprise that the corps did not invest but instead tax cuts went to dividends and share buy backs. Many corporations are paying zero taxes. A budget researcher with EPI wrote that "TCJA is set to exacerbate decades of rising economic inequality" because "the bill blew apart the individual and corporate tax codes with egregious new loopholes tailor made for the rich and the corporations." Why do we hear from Republicans that benefits from cutting taxes on high earners will result in "trickle-down benefit to lower earners, definitely debunked by experience, but never hear that cutting taxes to lower earners allows them to buy stuff that will benefit the companies owned and operated by high earners?

I'm still shaking my head over a recent letter to Timberjay print edition, It's "Either Trump or Socialism". I just wonder what the writer thinks Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are and if the writer is a senior citizen happy to have SS and Medicare. I'll take a wild guess and say writer probably believes SS/Medicare isn't socialism for the writer and like minded people but are undeserved handouts to those "other" irresponsible sorts.

Out of all the benefits Betty listed as differences between R and D parties, Social Security and Medicare are among the most important. and most popular with working Americans. All one has to do is check out the vast difference between Republican and Democratic SS/Medicare bills over the decades. R's always want to cut benefits and raise eligibility ages to "save" the programs. Who believes that baloney anymore? I remember when Pres George W Bush had townhalls around the country during his terms exhorting his plan "privatizing" Social Security which was a dud. The senior citizens who attended were not impressed.

Other groups such as Business Roundtable, Pete Peterson think tank and other think tanks that are run by vastly wealthy ceo's and individuals have been so concerned about Social Security and Medicare that they have diligently advocated and worked to raise eligibility ages and cut benefits. Sorry, I don't buy into that supposed altruism nor that they are concerned about recipients well-being. Wealthy business types, investors, etc. have long coveted getting their hands on Social Security trust fund. As Betty has pointed out, Medicare Advantage type plans are lucrative for the purveyors.

We're all going to be paying taxes. I want my taxes to take care of infrastructure, community needs, education, health care, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc, etc and I want that for our children and grandchildren instead of giving vast tax cuts to the top few multi-millionaires, billionaires and huge corporations. They don't need it, we and our country do.

Friday, November 22, 2019
Steve Jacobson

I don't choose to argue about all points today but will tell you that my miner paychecks increased about $100 per payday which correlates to about $2600/year so you are right we did not get $4000 like he promised.

Friday, November 22, 2019
jtormoen

I always get a kick ... and a tear or two ... when one notes a statistic based on a criteria such as "average worker" ... and then a party of one pops in with individual example ... thinking that resolves the question/issue.

Friday, November 22, 2019
Steve Jacobson

A party of one? Trust me, I'm not that special! Most every miner on the Iron Range saw the same thing. I guess, some just won't admit it as it would be against their agenda.

Saturday, November 23, 2019
jtormoen

We await the results of the survey of "most every miner on the range".

Patiently

Saturday, November 23, 2019
bonfire

In the Trump/GOP tax bill, after 2025 individual tax cuts are set to expire and at same time corporate tax rate are made permanent. I guess the the skyrocketing 26% deficit in 2018 doesn't matter for some who get a few thou more a year. Oddly, I remember when conservatives went ballistic over deficits when Dems in office. Getting a few thousand more in a year's paycheck isn't worth it to us when the very top tier is getting the bulk of tax cuts while we have many issues in this country that need funding more than the lucky duckies.

We need more food and drug inspectors and inspections. Romaine lettuce is in the news again.

Immigration policy is an appalling inhumane mess. This month reported record number, 69,550, up 42% from 2018, of migrant children, infants, toddlers, teens held in custody away from their families. Incarceration centers, many private corps, are being built in astonishing numbers. The financial and moral costs are unacceptable.

We need more funding to treat mental illness and opioid and other addictions destroying entire communities along with holding the companies who pushed opioids in the first place with some jail time for company ceos/owners instead of fines that don't begin to cover the damage they have done.

We need more funding to deal with the devastating effects of climate change.

And on and on.

Saturday, November 23, 2019
Steve Jacobson

OK, I'll come clean - it was me and me alone that has been getting a larger paycheck - no one else! My Bad!

Sunday, November 24, 2019