The 5 things the Republican Congress will get done — or at least try to — in 2017

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
House Speaker Paul Ryan with Melania and Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol after the election.

The Washington, D.C. beat in 2017 is going to revolve around covering a Republican Party that holds the White House and both chambers of Congress for the first time since 2006.

In those 10 years, Republicans have amassed a wish list of things they’d like to get done. Now’s their chance to tackle that list, and the story of 2017 in Washington will be how much progress they make toward those goals, and how effective Democrats will be in blocking them.

The Senate will be the site of most contention over the GOP’s agenda, because Democrats have the procedural tools (like the filibuster) and numbers required to fight back. Republicans will hold 52 seats to Democrats’ 46, with Vice President-elect Mike Pence as the tie-breaker.

In the House of Representatives, the GOP will retain a comfortable majority, holding 241 seats to Democrats’ 194. That chamber has more scheduled days of legislative work than any year since 2010 — a reflection of how productive a Congress leaders are imagining next year.

Democrats have said they’ll work with President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans where they can, but expect more partisan fireworks than friendly cooperation next year.

Also, don’t expect Trump and Republicans in Congress — many of whom kept him at arm’s length or openly criticized him during the campaign — to always agree, either.

Here are five big GOP agenda items I’ll be watching closely:

1. Obamacare

It’s the big one, the top of the GOP wish list since 2010, the one thing that Republicans believe they must do in the 115th Congress: dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

Congressional Republicans have been champing at the bit to get rid of President Obama’s signature achievement since its passage, voting numerous times on symbolic repeal measures in the House of Representatives.

Angry protest votes were easy enough. Now, with control of the necessary levers of power, comes the hard part for the GOP: figuring out a way to not just repeal Obamacare, but replace it with something else.

The repeal part is relatively simple. GOP leaders forecast a vote to repeal Obamacare as soon as February, which would easily clear the House. In the Senate, Republican leaders will likely use budget reconciliation — the same tactic Democrats used to pass the law in the first place — to ensure a repeal only needs a simple majority of the Senate, not a 60-vote majority.

The replacement will be much harder, in policy and logistics. Earlier this year, Speaker Paul Ryan outlined a plan aiming to make health coverage more affordable through expanding health savings accounts and allowing the purchase of coverage across state lines, among other things.

There is disagreement in the party about whether a repeal should be pursued before a replacement is hammered out. But key leaders are coalescing around a plan that would repeal Obamacare soon and then allow two to four years to figure out a replacement, setting up a potential deadline down the road. (D.C.’s already calling it the “health care cliff.”)

Minnesota’s Republican representatives all want to see the law gone. Incoming Rep. Jason Lewis made opposition to Obamacare a key plank of his winning campaign in the 2nd District. Rep. Tom Emmer said he expects Obamacare will be toast by February, but said the party needs to proceed with caution in its replacement plans.

How Republicans address Obamacare will be the story not just of 2017, but probably 2018 and 2019, too.

2. Tax reform

Republicans and Democrats have been talking about working on comprehensive tax reform for years. In 2017, those proposals will take on a decidedly more conservative tack.

Broadly, GOP leaders want to lower individual and corporate income tax rates, with a strong focus on the latter: the Ways and Means Committee, which sets taxation policy, has already drawn up a proposal to reduce corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 20 percent.

On other tax issues, Republicans are going to reach for long-held goals. They likely will take aim at the estate tax, which Trump, Ryan, and other GOP leaders want to get rid of. Most Democrats are loath to drop the tax, which would cost about $200 billion over a decade. In a vote in the House last year, only seven Democrats joined Republicans to repeal it.

It’s possible Democrats may not be able to put up much resistance to any of these measures. The budget reconciliation tactic is typically meant to reconcile tax legislation with budget legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he expects that is how tax reform bills will move in the next Congress.

The member to watch on tax issues will be GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen: the only Minnesotan to serve on Ways and Means, Paulsen has floated an array of tax and health care policy tweaks over the years.

3. Entitlement reform

Any movement from the GOP on Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security could bring some of the messiest politics of 2017.

It is no secret that Republicans would like to “restructure” Medicare, the government’s program to cover seniors’ health care, and Medicaid, which covers low-income people, in order to reduce the programs’ costs. Medicare and Medicaid cost over $1 trillion in 2016 and cover more than 120 million people.

The GOP has long wanted to give states money for Medicaid in the form of block grants; they’ve also pushed varying degrees of privatization for Medicare. Trump’s nomination of Georgia GOP Rep. Tom Price, a very conservative voice on health care, as Secretary of Health and Human Services has only added to speculation.

In November, Price suggested that a long-desired Medicare reform — a voucher program to let patients use government money to participate in a private plan instead of Medicare — could be included as a rider on a budget bill.

On Social Security, the Republican chair of the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee floated a bill that would restructure the program. It includes a raise of the retirement age, an idea favored by many conservatives.

Perhaps more than any others, entitlement issues are political third rails in Congress. They will not be as far up on the agenda as Obamacare, but Paul Ryan and others have been itching to take a crack at them for years. They now have the chance.

But this is a fight Democrats relish, and talking points they’re deeply comfortable with. Setting the battle lines for 2017, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already declared a GOP “war on seniors.”

In entitlement debates, watch Democratic Reps. Rick Nolan and Keith Ellison, two of the most vocal opponents to GOP policy in either chamber.

4. Wall Street reform rollback

Trump’s populist appeal was bolstered by his calls to take on Wall Street. But Republicans in Congress see an opportunity to pass long-awaited measure to deregulate the financial sector, particularly a rollback of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform package.

A repeal of the entire law, which is 2,300 pages and incredibly complex, probably won’t happen this Congress.

But Republicans could chip away at pillars of Dodd-Frank, like the so-called “Volcker rule,” which prevents big banks from making certain kinds of risky investments. They also will likely target the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, defanging it by replacing its director with a board and by giving Congress control over its budget.

Emmer, a vocal critic of Dodd-Frank, is on the House Financial Services panel, and could play a role in this debate. Ellison, a staunch defender of the CFPB and Wall Street regulation, is also on that committee, and could figure prominently into the debate as well, if he retains his congressional seat.

5. Energy and environmental deregulation

Among most congressional Republicans, Obama’s actions to tackle climate change were anathema. With a man friendly to the fossil fuels industry and skeptical of climate science moving into the White House, Republicans are now eyeing a few areas where they might be able to roll back Obama’s environmental policies in Congress.

Since Trump’s election, the Obama administration has been working frantically to complete 11th hour regulations on climate and environmental protection. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has 60 days to disapprove a regulation from the executive branch — so the 115th Congress could get to work undoing those rules, if it acts swiftly.

That process would take some work, but it’s feasible. Potential targets of a GOP effort include a rule from the Department of the Interior to reduce methane emissions on public lands, or even the recent rule to block Twin Metals from its leases to copper and nickel deposits near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters.

Environmentalists worry that Congress could act to make big amendments to existing law like the Clean Air Act, such as excluding carbon dioxide as a regulated pollutant.

Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, the ranking member on the Appropriations subcommittee that deals with interior issues, is one to watch on these issues.

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Comments (68)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/02/2017 - 08:08 am.

    Not So Fast, Mr. Brody

    Mr. Brody does Minn Post readers disservice with this article. He tells a small and inaccurate part of the story on Obamacare repeal.

    I am in now way an expert on Obamacare. But it is my understanding that it cannot be completely repealed by a simple majority vote via budget reconciliation. Anything related to taxes, the budget, financing can be repealed that way. But there are many provisions of the law that cannot be repealed under budget reconciliation and are subjet to the filibuster if they cannot garner 60 votes.

    The rule against discriminating based on pre-existing conditions is one such feature. If that is kept, and the individual mandate is repealed, insurance companies will by law have to insure cancer-ravaged people at the same rate as healthy people. Before long, insurance companies would be abandoning the individual market in droves. Would the GOP really risk having their finger prints on that? I think it would be political suicide for millions of Americans in the individual market to suddenly not be able to buy insurance.

    This could be avoided by Mitch McConnel et al ditching the filibuster entirely. They could do that, but I highly doubt it. They’d not have it when the worm turns and they find themselves in the minority again.

    So when a professional journalist like Mr. Brody makes it sound so simple, it’s not. Mr. Brody did not do his homework on this, or perhaps this was just lazy journalism. In any case complete repeal is far from a done deal, as long a Democrats deny the GOP enough votes to keep them from 60.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 01/02/2017 - 07:29 pm.

      That’s right + 59 million uninsured

      From an Urban Institute report:

      “Since only components of the law with federal budget implications can be changed through reconciliation, this approach [Repeal and replace it with something later] would permit elimination of the Medicaid expansion, the federal financial assistance for Marketplace coverage (premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions), and the individual and employer mandates.”

      But . . .

      “It would leave the insurance market reforms (including the nongroup market’s guaranteed issue, prohibition on preexisting condition exclusions, modified community rating, essential health benefit requirements, and actuarial value standards) in place.

      A few of “The key effects of passage of [the anticipated] bill are as follows:

      — The number of uninsured people would rise from 28.9 million to 58.7 million in 2019, an increase of 29.8 million people (103 percent). The share of nonelderly people without insurance would increase from 11 percent to 21 percent, a higher rate of uninsurance than before the ACA because of the disruption to the nongroup [“individual”] insurance market.

      — Of the 29.8 million newly uninsured, 22.5 million people become uninsured as a result of eliminating the premium tax credits, the Medicaid expansion, and the individual mandate. The additional 7.3 million people become uninsured because of the near collapse of the nongroup insurance market.

      — Eighty-two percent of the people becoming uninsured would be in working families, 38 percent would be ages 18 to 34, and 56 percent would be non-Hispanic whites. Eighty percent of adults becoming uninsured would not have college degrees.

      “This scenario does not just move the country back to the situation before the ACA. It moves the country to a situation with higher uninsurance rates than was the case before the ACA’s reforms. To replace the ACA after reconciliation with new policies designed to increase insurance coverage, the federal government would have to raise new taxes, substantially cut spending, or increase the deficit.”

      http://www.urban.org/research/publication/implications-partial-repeal-aca-through-reconciliation

      Much more at that web site, but aren’t a lot of the people involved in that last bunch of stats (82% working families, etc.) people who voted Republican? Aren’t a lot of those people the ones who have been so passionate about getting rid of “Obamacare”? Aren’t they the people the incoming president said he was going to look out for and help, big time?

      Heck of a way to start.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/02/2017 - 08:26 am.

    The wish list

    1. So far, this is a triumph of ideology over obvious public need, since no plausible alternative to the Affordable Care Act has yet been presented for scrutiny by OMB or the public. That would be quite a legacy for the Republican Party – a death sentence for many thousands of Americans out of the millions who could not otherwise afford health care. Health savings accounts are a chimera, existing primarily in the minds of people who can already afford health care insurance, or are wealthy enough not to need it. “Coverage across state lines” primarily benefits insurance companies, and does little to address the elephant in the health policy room, which is the ever-rising cost of care in a for-profit health care industry.

    2. Seldom has the word “reform” been more maliciously misused. The revenue impact of Trump’s revised tax plan would cut the taxes of most Americans by less than 2%, while cutting the taxes of the top 1% by 5.1% – and adding nearly $5 trillion to the national debt. http://ctj.org/ctjreports/2016/09/the_distributional_and_revenue_impact_of_donald_trumps_revised_tax_plan.php#.WGpdT5JM-Hs
    The only way to avoid that huge debt burden will be to essentially eliminate both Social Security and Medicare for the elderly – or drastically reduce military spending. I won’t hold my breath waiting for the latter.

    3. The Republican term for Entitlement Reform is “restructure.” what that means in practice is “reduce” or “eliminate.” What former Georgia Representative Tom Price (the new Secretary of Health and Human Services) would like to substitute for Medicare is vouchers allowing seniors to purchase (almost certainly at higher cost) health care and services from a private plan instead of through the government. Reach your own conclusions about what the result might be. Republicans would also like to raise the retirement age for Social Security, by itself not an especially revolutionary idea, as it’s been floating around for at least a decade in both Republican and Democratic policy circles.

    4. Calling Republican ideas about Wall Street and the financial industry “reform” is a near-total corruption of the usual meaning of the term, since what’s envisioned is a relaxation of already-lax oversight of an industry that nearly destroyed the economy single-handedly a decade ago. Republican also would like to make sure that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) has championed is stripped of its influence over policy by giving the Republican-controlled House control of its budget.

    5. The Republican Party has established itself as the Anti-Environment Party, and with a know-nothing climate-change skeptic in the White House getting support from similarly corporate-friendly know-nothings in the House, environmental regulations could conceivably take a serious hit. Corporate stockholders will applaud, and the waters of the BWCA could easily be poisoned for – in effect – forever.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/02/2017 - 10:28 am.

    Reform

    Items 2 and 3 above describe changes the Republican majority in Congress wand to enact as “reform”. The issue I want to raise here is whether the term “reform” is a value laden term which should be used with care in nonpartisan journalism. In effect, is a journalist who is such terms taking an editorial stand which he does not intend?

    For myself, I don’t see Republican efforts with regard to taxes as a reform. They simply want to shift the tax burden from one group to another, just as we Democrats want to do when we are in charge. This is simply a shift in policy, not a reform.

    It’s much the same with entitlement reform. To the best of my understanding, Republicans don’t want to change what people are entitled to under the current system, they simply want to reduce those entitlements.

  4. Submitted by John Ferman on 01/02/2017 - 10:42 am.

    Entitlement Reform

    The article states that Medicare/Medicaid cost $1 trillion in 2016. What is not said is the source of the money – by implication from taxes. Last year I paid a monthly deduction of $108 monthly for Medicare. My wife who is not on Social Security paid the sane monthly premium. As I understand everyone on Medicare pays a monthly premium. So my plea is that when federal expenditures are cited that they also quote the other number – the premiums paid by individuals. 12x108x120,000,000 equals $155.52 trillion

  5. Submitted by joe smith on 01/02/2017 - 12:28 pm.

    Good.

    We need tax reform, too complicated, to tilted towards special interest. We had better look at phasing in some entitlement program reform before it drowns us at many different levels. Obamacare being reformed is a must, projected cost to the tax payers is double what was promised when passed. ACA is good for the millions of folks getting subsidies (until they have to pay deductibles), bad for the millions of folks paying double to cover the subsidies. The disaster that is Dodd/Frank needs to be changed to actually stop the banks from getting bigger plus allow lending to small businesses. Finally, reducing useless regulations will help small to large businesses take off and become the engine of growth in our country as opposed to Big Government being the engine.

    To summarize, good!!

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/02/2017 - 05:40 pm.

      The Most Wasteful Entitlement

      The largest, most wasteful entitlement in the federal budget is the largess the Pentagon ladles upon weapons manufacturers and contractors. (Once again, notice I do not call them “defense contractors”.) And the GOP is pledging to double down on that welfare entitlement.

      When the WTC can be brought down for well under $50K, the thought that spending billions on “defense” is absurd. Large boats and $40M planes will do nothing to deter ISIS. But it will enrich certain corporations while it drains our economy of valuable resources.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/02/2017 - 10:15 pm.

      Definitely

      I was discussing ACA with my sister who works for one of the health insurance companies. She told me that one of the biggest reasons for their huge losses was that many people would sign up for insurance, pay ~3 months of premiums and have a hip replaced under coverage… Then they would stop paying premiums.

      Pre-existing condition is good, but the above noted behavior is unacceptable. No wonder premiums were going crazy.

      • Submitted by Jon Lord on 01/04/2017 - 10:39 am.

        The IRS will collect that money from tax returns if a person drops their coverage. That, of course, includes those who just stop paying premiums.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/04/2017 - 03:32 pm.

          Penalties

          The penalties are way too small to prevent this kind of fraud.
          https://www.healthcare.gov/fees/fee-for-not-being-covered/

          • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 01/05/2017 - 03:53 pm.

            Only one penalty will work

            Allow hospitals to deny service to patients without insurance coverage or payment in advance. Any other penalties will not work and people will game the system. Of course in order to do this there must be insurance readily available at an affordable cost. This is the way to preserve “freedom” and not have an individual mandate. Allow people to choose to die in the streets.

          • Submitted by Jon Lord on 01/06/2017 - 11:18 am.

            this small

            The fee is calculated 2 different ways – as a percentage of your household income, and per person. You’ll pay whichever is higher.
            Percentage of income
            2.5% of household income
            Maximum: Total yearly premium for the national average price of a Bronze plan sold through the Marketplace
            Per person
            $695 per adult
            $347.50 per child under 18
            Maximum: $2,085

            How much does each person pay for their insurance?

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/07/2017 - 09:08 am.

              Confused

              I can tell you what my company and I pay for the insurance for the 5 of us in a low deductible plan. Probably a gold plan in ACA terms. (~$20,000/yr or $4,000/yr per person)

              So if the penalty is only $1,250/year. ($50,000/year X .025) as compared to a family premium of $20,000 /yr. Of course there are some who will just pay the penalty, pay a couple months of premiums and take the new hip. It is a bargain.

              • Submitted by Jon Lord on 01/08/2017 - 11:34 am.

                Well

                My figures come straight from that reference you sited. Someone making $20,000 a year probably wouldn’t just pay the penalty.

                You could benefit from dropping it. Not so much someone making much less. The problem, as I understand what is being said about it, is that it’s those at the top end of the population in terms of salary who are the ones having to pay far higher premiums than they started out paying. They might benefit from dropping their coverage.

                The problem with paying a couple months of premiums and taking the new hip then dropping their coverage is that it’s recorded. Insurance companies won’t soon forget. It may not be that bargain. Especially when there are changes made to the ACA. It’s more of a gamble.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/09/2017 - 04:14 pm.

                  Actually

                  Apparently the way the law was written, the companies are required to take everyone… Even if they behaved dishonorably before…

                  There may be some stingy wealthy people who would screw around with turning on and off health insurance. But most people I know just go with low premium high deductible plans. They have a lot more to lose if someone in the family gets really sick.

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 01/04/2017 - 06:38 pm.

        No wonder!

        Yeah . . . That’s it. All those people getting their hips replaced and then stiffing insurance companies. That’s why every American is paying $5,000 per year more for health care than anyone else in the civilized world.

        Thanks for clearing that up.

        (By the way. Next time you talk to your sister about the cost of insurance, ask if she thinks hospital “Chargemaster practices” might have anything to do with it . . . In addition to the above, of course.)

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/05/2017 - 11:15 am.

          Specific

          Per the healthcare cost driver link I provided below. You are correct that there are many factors regarding why healthcare is expensive in the USA. The problem noted here just explains part of why ACA premiums are sky rocketing and companies are exiting. It is not greed, it is survival.

          They simply can not stay in the business collecting $2,000 from a short term customer who incurs a $50,000 expense.

  6. Submitted by 18576 18576 on 01/02/2017 - 04:52 pm.

    “entitlements”

    What many call “entitlements” are really earned benefits. It is a political ploy to call them something else to demonize the ideas/institutions.
    All of these programs could be made solvent in perpetuity if we just raised the cap. Those it affects would not see their lifestyle change one iota with a small increase in the cap.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 01/02/2017 - 05:34 pm.

      Bill, what is welfare

      and Medicaid.? Who pays in on those programs? Both are non-contributory programs. What cap would you like to raise to make these both solvent? BTW, there are at least 13 welfare programs that fit the description of non-contributory programs.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/02/2017 - 09:13 pm.

        Welfare Is

        A very very small part of the budget. Unless you’re thinking of Aid For Dependent Corporations. They get a lot of welfare.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/03/2017 - 10:20 am.

          Facts

          http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/welfare_spending

          Welfare, Food Stamps, Medicaid, etc is about 1/6th of the local, state & federal budgets or ~$1 Trillion per year.

          At least when we buy an Aircraft Carrier we get an aircraft carrier and 1,000s of people are employed for years.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/03/2017 - 11:52 am.

            Another Fact

            You are looking at combined local, federal, and state spending. That makes for a misleading comparison with the amount spent on defense. Now that Wyoming has decided it doesn’t need an aircraft carrier, national defense is entirely a federal responsibility.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/03/2017 - 01:08 pm.

              And I would argue that the welfare of a State’s citizens should be the responsibility of Local and State governments, while the Feds should focus on interstate issues and National Defense… And yet somehow welfare, etc became a partial function of the Federal government.

              And since taxes are taxes, I almost always look at the total spend.

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/03/2017 - 01:32 pm.

                Taxes are Taxes

                Unless you have significant income in multiple states, you are paying state taxes only in Minnesota. The welfare that those bi-coastal elite state governments choose to lavish on the looter class is not coming out of your pocket.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/03/2017 - 01:11 pm.

              One More Note

              Please remember that National Defense is near an all time low.
              http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/defense_spending

          • Submitted by Bill Willy on 01/03/2017 - 01:27 pm.

            Yes indeed!

            Those aircraft carriers are great job-creators and economic growth machines. And they’re especially efficient when they’re fired up and sent out to cruise the oceans for months on end on “exercises” (they get such great gas mileage).

            And those planes they carry! Talk about productive ways to spend taxpayer bucks and create even MORE jobs. I have no idea how much jet fuel they burn just getting off the deck, but there’s little doubt they use up lots of it pronto while they’re out flying the skies, keeping their pilot’s skills sharp.

            And those smart bombs they carry . . . Ouuuuuweee! How much do THOSE babies cost? Half-million a-piece? Another taxpayer bonanza! Ever seen one of those things take out a $20,000 Toyota or Nissan pickup in the desert! Ouuuuch! Worth ever penny!

            Flat-out war may, of course, be one of the most productive growth engines and uses of taxpayer money there is. Sure, a few (hundred thousand) people get killed, but most of them aren’t Americans. And once you get the majority of the military not only equipped, but running on all eight cylinders, the spend-o-meter whirls like an out of control merry-go-round. TRILLIONS (above and beyond the regular, everyday “military maintenance” $500 million+ per year) can be gone through like water.

            Getting our money spent that way (creating all those much sought-after, high-paying jobs) meant we didn’t need to waste that $6 or so trillion — that the Afghanistan and Iraq employment programs had cost us as of sometime last year — on idiotic things like rebuilding our entire infrastructure (twice).

            Good thing the Bush administration decided not to finish off Bin Laden, his band of merry men and the “War on terror” (by sending in 800 of the 2,000 nearby US soldiers the CIA was begging for) when the CIA and the bombers (off one of those carriers) had them pinned down and all but boxed-in at Tora Bora 90 days after 9/11.

            Just think of how many jobs THAT would have cost!

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/03/2017 - 02:34 pm.

              Value vs Cost

              Given the HUGE sums of money that the US citizens / consumers make and/or save because of global trade in a relatively peaceful world… And the incredible safety we have had in the USA since 9/11… I think our national defense /global police are worth every dollar. And as noted above, the spend is historically very low.

              And please remember that since our military is an all volunteer force, it is our fellow citizens who choose that life style and those risks… Thanks Heavens for our Military personnel !!!

              • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 01/03/2017 - 04:41 pm.

                you make an assumption

                …That global peace has some or even any correlation with how much the US spends on the military. And then you add “every dollar” is worth it.

                Taking your second point first, you may or may not have heard of the huge waste at the Pentagon. According to this CNN article accounting errors in the amount of $6.5 trillion were made:
                http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/23/politics/us-army-audit-accounting-errors/

                The Washington Post reveal that the Pentagon tried to hide $125 billion in what it called ‘administrative waste’.
                https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/pentagon-buries-evidence-of-125-billion-in-bureaucratic-waste/2016/12/05/e0668c76-9af6-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?utm_term=.23b9d907ac0f

                We have the f-35 coming in at a trillion dollars, an astonishingly wasteful project and for a plane that many wish were never built.

                Obama announced a $1 trillion dollar plan to refurbish our nuclear weapons

                It’s difficult to imagine a more obscene waste of our national treasure than the above, and this is just the tip of the military budget iceberg. The cost of the military is also an enormous opportunity cost when we consider how much good that money could have done either in our pockets or repairing our schools or investing in scientific and medical research–the list of sacrificed priorities is a mile long.

                But your first claim is that somehow all of the money we’re spending is making the world a safer place. There seems to be little evidence to support this and much against. Perhaps the prime example of the US destabilizing the world is our disastrous war in Iraq, the chaos from which has spread to much of the Middle East and beyond.

                Or, we could discuss the numerous instance in which US military and other aid is used by repressive governments. Many people do not live in peace because of US influence. For example, Honduras. Hillary Clinton supported a right-wing coup in the country and since then hundreds have paid with their lives as wealthy landowners and business interests to an opportunity to crush opposition.

                The US also contributes substantially to the global arms trade, which results not in peace, but in increased conflict elsewhere in the world.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/04/2017 - 08:35 am.

                  As you said

                  We will need to agree to disagree, and thankfully both Democratic and Republican politicians agree with me. Neither side supports cutting our national defense / global police force.

                  By the way, waste is a normal part of government expenditures be it the military, education, welfare, healthcare, research, etc. And it is worse at the Federal and State levels because they are further from the people who paid the tax. That is why folks like me think the Feds should focus on only national defense, interstate issues, etc and leave spending on individual citizens to the states.

                  • Submitted by Jon Lord on 01/04/2017 - 10:57 am.

                    If

                    spending on individual citizens is left to the states then natural disasters should also be left to the states to pay for, like no more federal aid due to flooding, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. I know many states want to ‘take care of their own personal problems’ without the intervention of the Feds…except when a natural disaster happens ‘in their State’. Think of the federal waste that could be saved by letting states do their own repairs. I mean, that leaves spending on individual citizens to the states! That means folks like you.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/04/2017 - 12:42 pm.

                      Net Donor

                      I think you are forgetting that all the “Federal” funding comes from the same citizens. (ie meaning us…) I am pretty sure MN citizens pay for a lot more than we receive. We are a wealthy state with a few floods and tornadoes… I think we could self insure pretty easily.

                      But for some reason certain people thought they knew better how each State should handle the citizens within their boundaries, and kept moving that authority and those dollars from the State to the Fed. So today we pay for Local, State and Federal services, agencies, bureaucrats, etc that overlap and/or are redundant. Now that is some expensive waste… Though it does create a lot of public employee positions for us tax payers to pay for.

                    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 01/06/2017 - 11:30 am.

                      You know

                      you’ll pay on way or another. You’ll either pay for repairs on your car because of the damage done by roads in bad repair, or you’ll pay for roads that don’t cause damage to your car. Plus you know, we could put a lot of people out of work by eliminating most government jobs. That’d save money…up front. Which redundant services do you feel should be eliminated?

                      Fine for Minnesota, we can handle a flood…but we still get federal help. But then, how about the southern states who can’t afford to fund themselves? We’re not alone in this country you know, it includes all the states. Missouri for instance, to name just one, can’t afford to be without federal aid in disasters. Bet you can name a few more easily. They simply forget they can’t afford natural disasters between natural disasters.

          • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/03/2017 - 09:24 pm.

            Whoa Whoa Whoa!!!

            What do you mean, “1,000s of people are employed for years.”???

            Conservatives have told us for years and years that “government cannot create jobs”. Are you saying that’s wrong?

            Are you a Keynesian? Do you think government should be in the business of stimulating growth through spending. How many light rail trains can we get for $14B? That would provide a lot more jobs.

            Given how capital intensive military spending is, this costs jobs. More jobs are created by just about any other type of government spending. Leaving the money in the private economy would also create more jobs. Building air craft carriers (at a cost of $14 billion, before overruns) cost jobs. it is as economically productive as building pyramids in the dessert, but provides fewer jobs than the pyramids.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/04/2017 - 08:45 am.

              Light Rail

              Sorry but I think light rail is far more capital intensive. Just think of all that land that needs to be secured / improved and then there are the track bed, stations, rail cars, etc. And when you are done you have a track that only helps the people who live near it, plus the continuing subsidy costs because they are not even willing to pay the full operating costs.

              I am pretty sure most of the shipyards already exist. So most of the spend goes into design and build, plus all of us benefit from a safe America and a stable world.

              • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/04/2017 - 12:20 pm.

                Not Even Close

                Infrastructure projects, such as light rail, provide far more jobs than capital intensive spending like air craft carriers and jets. it’s not even close.

                How much did the taxpayers spend securing the middle of University Avenue? Oh right, we already owned it. Light rail runs primarily on existing public right of way.

                And given how specialized modern weapons systems are, there is not a lot of that technology that is readily transferable to the civilian economy.

                But what is most important is that you’ve conceded that government spending can create jobs in the private economy. Now we’re only debating how best to do that. Progress!

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/04/2017 - 03:40 pm.

                  I guess I never disagreed that government spending can create jobs.

                  The question is how many jobs are lost from the Private sector by pulling each additional $1 Trillion out of our personal wallets each year to do so?

                  Please remember that I am often critical of big bonding bills and the national debt because it is like stimulus money that some one else has to pay for. (ie our kids) And then of course there are our new stadium “jobs programs”…

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/02/2017 - 10:10 pm.

      Option 2

      We also could shore them up by raising the payroll tax rate (ie premiums) to align with the higher planned costs. (ie benefits) This way they remain earned benefit programs.

      By eliminating the cap without giving the wealthy more benefits… SS and Medicare would just become more like welfare and medicaid.

  7. Submitted by Bill Willy on 01/02/2017 - 08:05 pm.

    A basic question no one’s asking

    The cost of complete, cradle-to-grave health care in the United Kingdom is less than $4,000 per capita per year.

    The cost of the same thing in Canada is $4,500 per Canadian.

    The cost is similar in every other industrialized nation (Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, etc.).

    The cost in the United States is $9,000 per person.

    http://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0006_health-care-oecd

    And, even though we are all being charged an average of $5,000+ per year more than the people who live in those other countries, we are all getting worse health care outcomes for our money: Shorter lives with more chronic disease in them.

    The First Thing Congress (not to mention “the media”) ought to be doing to help protect and improve the health (and bank accounts) of ALL the American people (Democrats, Republicans, political Agnostics and Atheists, all races, ethnicities and faiths) is asking and answering the simple question, “Why is that?” before taking ANY action to “fix the problem.”

    Instead we have an incoming president and Congress that is eager to put the physical and economic well-being of almost all Americans at even greater risk by fulfilling the ideological “promise” of repealing the ACA which won’t fix anything.

    Instead of doing what they can to find and implement whatever policies it would take to bring the cost of health care down to something approaching the average cost of the rest of the industrialized world — which would be the equivalent of giving every American a $5,000 increase in yearly income which would provide a much bigger boost to the economy than any proposed tax cut — our “leaders” appear to be doing all they can to ensure that $9,000 per American cost goes UP instead.

    Why is that?

    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 01/03/2017 - 09:25 am.

      why is that?

      I wonder that too.

      The best explanation I can come up with is that Republicans really only value conservative dogma.

      Scientific evidence? Research data on the effectiveness of legislation, policy and regulation? Whether American society is making progress on various measures of human well-being?

      None of that matters as much as, or even at all, compared with the conservative doctrines of tax cuts, deregulation and shrinking the size of government. These conservative dogmas are pursued for their own sake and are largely if not completely divorced from their (often) harmful effects.

      Why in turn is this the case? Your guess is as good as mine, but I would posit the following as part of an explanation:

      1. An insular media environment where conservative talking points get recited endlessly with little criticism or encounter with differing views.

      2. A shallow intellectual and scholarly base in academia, which means that few people who know what they’re talking about get involved with conservative politics.

      3. Strong levels of dogmatism present within conservative psychology generally.

      4. Ideological extremism that goes back many decades and has always hated the very existence of the social safety net–Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc., or government involvement in almost anything. “Government is the problem” has become for many a slogan that absolves them from the responsibility of thinking, for taking into account contradictory evidence of when government is clearly not the problem.

      5. ?

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/03/2017 - 10:29 am.

        A Different Perspective

        Given the number research hospitals we have, medical device firms and the huge number of rich/ famous who come here for treatment, I disagree with you. How ever this individual explains it better.

        http://www.city-journal.org/html/ugly-truth-about-canadian-health-care-13032.html

        • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 01/03/2017 - 01:44 pm.

          a complex topic requiring more careful consideration

          Let’s not conflate a number of issues. There are some parts of the American system that do offer advantages, but the weaknesses of the American system are particularly awful.

          First, many people around the world don’t face the exorbitant medical bills that Americans do. Medical bill related bankruptcies at the rates Americans experience would be a scandal in other countries. This in turn has cascading effects, such as emptying out retirement accounts, which increases life precarity overall. Medical bills prevent people from doing any number of things that might benefit them and society, like pursuing higher education.

          Second, we already have a form of rationing in this country with far worse effects than in Canada–it’s the fact that people avoid needed medical, not because of wait times, but because they simply can’t afford it. Both the Institute of Medicine and Harvard (if I recall) have found that this results in 10s of thousands of needless deaths per annum. If America were a civilized country, we would address this problem with great urgency.

          Third, the American system has an extraordinary amount of inefficiency due to the profit system. The data on this are easy to come by. Health insurance companies needlessly add administrative cost to the system. According to the documentary Sick Around the World, the inefficiency of American health insurance companies is many multiples what it is in Switzerland(?). Take the pharmaceutical industry–parasitizing research off of government funded research labs, they waste many billions on advertising (which should be outlawed), pushing drugs without corresponding health need, through political corruption keeping prices high, and through the needless added cost of paying dividends to shareholders. No one should be getting wealthy in the American system. Instead, we should all be getting healthier at the lowest possible cost.

          The debate on health in the US needs to be broadened considerably to include agriculture and food, public health practices, and more. For instance, we have a food industry that profits off of poor health by promoting unhealthy foods. General Mills and other companies have supported through their contributions the corruption of dietary standards from the World Health Organization.

          The fact that sugar industry, or cattle industry, or soft drink industry, etc., have any influence at all on legislation makes a mockery of this country’s commitment to public health.

          Overall there’s an incredible amount of corruption of public health by industry. If we’re serious about keeping health costs down and improving public health we need to ensure that 90% of the food industry has no say in public policy whatsoever.

          Health care economist Uwe Reinhart said a few years ago that when he attends international health care conferences that when one mentions ‘the American system’ that everyone knows that this refers to a system that doesn’t work well. Americans in their parochialism are the last to ever know these things.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/03/2017 - 03:40 pm.

            Civilized

            ” If America were a civilized country, we would address this problem with great urgency.”

            Personally I think we are a civilized country. The question is what do people have a right to, just for standing on American soil. As compared to what do people need to earn through the effort of learning, good choices and work?

            If one chooses to not pay their health insurance premiums and gets ill, who should bear the financial burden if that choice?

            If one chooses to eat poorly, not exercise and take excessive risks, who should bear the financial burden of those choices?

            Being a Capitalist I think most people need to earn food, housing, healthcare, etc by learning and working. It seems more civilized than taking money from those who do these responsible things and giving it to those who choose to not.

            This does not apply to the young, truly disabled and old. Society does need to assist them.

            • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 01/03/2017 - 04:23 pm.

              we’ll agree to disagree on a number of points

              “If one chooses to not pay their health insurance premiums and gets ill, who should bear the financial burden if that choice?”

              We should have a health insurance system in which opting out is not an option and everyone pays into it. We could easily afford this but we choose not to. Consider that we’re flushing a trillion dollars down the toilet for a the F-35 jet fighter. Or, we supposedly need another trillion to update our nuclear arsenal. Or, what about all the unearned income from the financial industry?

              “If one chooses to eat poorly, not exercise and take excessive risks, who should bear the financial burden of those choices?”

              I agree that an incentive structure might help, but it quickly gets complicated and would add a substantial bureaucratic burden on the system. Plus, if people know that penalties attach to certain behaviors, there would be an incentive to falsify. This would also exist for discounts for healthy behaviors. If we want more healthy people we have to think systemically and go outside the health insurance and medical system and ask what role education, the workplace, urban planning, and more, can do.

              I’m far less worried about people gaming the system than I am about the numerous abuses that profiteering companies bring to the system.

              “Being a Capitalist I think most people need to earn food, housing, healthcare, etc by learning and working. It seems more civilized than taking money from those who do these responsible things and giving it to those who choose to not.”

              What does that even mean? How do you define that? Do mothers looking after kids count? What about children? Retired people? What about people who, say, take a year or two off of work to deal with substance abuse problems? Do they suddenly cease to have human rights? What about wealthy people who haven’t worked for most of their lives and have added almost nothing of value to the economy and society, as in the case with most financial wealth? What about people who work for a living but harm others by virtue of the kind of business they are engaged in like making tobacco products or weapons of war? Should prisoners be denied health care for as long as they’re in prison? What about homeless people? If they’re not working do we just bar them from hospital entry?

              This group of people that you seem to imagine that are living high off the hog while doing nothing, practically doesn’t exist as a cost factor in the system relative to all the other factors that drive cost.

              This observation then in turn leads me to wonder, as I often do, why conservatives become fixated on an imagined group of undeserving others while ignoring the real source of the problems in our health care system.

              I have the distinct impression you haven’t thought this through but are relying on slogans that superficially sound good. If I’ve mischaracterized your view here please correct me.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/03/2017 - 05:35 pm.

                Thought

                I have given it a great deal of thought actually, and discussed it dozens of times.
                http://give2attain.blogspot.com/2012/02/american-healthcare-cost-dirvers.html

                Now what we choose as a society to do about the issue is another topic. And I think spending money developing new technologies, paying citizens, generating more jobs, generating more tax receipts, etc while designing a plane is far more productive than sending more money into the welfare / medicaid black hole.

                Now if you want to pay those recipients to do something value added, I can maybe get behind that. But just taking money from Peter to give to Paul, because Paul is standing on American soil makes no sense to me. It simply punishes good behavior and rewards poor behavior.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/03/2017 - 02:04 pm.

          This Individual

          I’m going to start by saying that I am underwhelmed by your source. This individual is writing in City Journal, a publication that has, among other pieces, an article blaming mall hooliganism on President Obama. To move on . . .

          Canada spends less per capita on health care than the US, but they achieve better outcomes: They live longer, have a lower infant mortality rate, and unmet medical needs are somewhat lower in Canada. According to a Gallup survey, 57% of Canadians are satisfied with the availability of affordable health care in their country, versus 25% in the United States.

          I don’t doubt that one can troll Canada and find many individuals and physicians who are unhappy. We can all agree that there is no such thing as unanimity in any human endeavor. Looking at the big picture, and considering the overall health of the nation and not just some anecdotes larded with terms like “increasingly” with no numbers backing them up, gives an entirely different picture. Celebrities may not be going to Moose Jaw for tummy tucks, but that can’t be taken as a realistic measure of health care, can it?

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/03/2017 - 03:58 pm.

            Sources

            I would look up more sources, however I do not think it would change any minds.

            I’ll just mention that I work with people all over the world. Some love their socialized healthcare but many find it severely lacking. One of my co-workers moved to the US for employment because his oldest child is autistic and he said their program in Sweden was awful. Another had a child get sick in Britain and they had to wait 45 minutes to get a stethoscope. He lost patience and flew with his child back to Chicago in time to have the child operated on for some serious malady. One co-worker’s land lady in Italy was diagnosed with cancer and instead of treating it they just gave her a check for $50,000 and told her to enjoy her last few months.

            My point is that yes socialized medicine may be great for some Americans who are trapped between Medicaid and Normal Insurance, but for most of us it would come with some serious down sides. Be careful what you wish for… You may get it.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/03/2017 - 05:30 pm.

              Some? Most?

              The majority of Americans–not just some–are going to be better off with Canadian-style health care. No, it isn’t going to meet everyone’s approval, but nothing is.

              I can counter your colleagues’ horror stories with equally compelling stories of the deprivations of American health care. If we’re going for hard data rather than anecdotes, in 2009, the American Journal of Public Health found that 45,000 Americans died every year for a lack of health insurance. There is no perfect system, but pretending the US system is a good one.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/04/2017 - 08:26 pm.

                Fact Check

                http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2013/sep/06/alan-grayson-claims-45000-people-die-year-because-/

                “Richard Kronick, a University of California San Diego medical professor who now works for the Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in 2009 that estimates are “almost certainly incorrect.”

                His paper, published in August 2009 in HSR: Health Services Research, found that uninsured participants had no different risk of dying than those were covered by employer-sponsored group insurance. The finding was surprising coming from Kronick, who told PolitiFact then it was “not the answer I wanted.”

                Kronick, recently named director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, said he does not doubt the overall point that having no insurance takes a toll on a person’s health. “

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/05/2017 - 09:16 am.

                  That’s Nice

                  Interesting article. The takeaway is that there is no hard evidence for a figure.

                  I have also read that the 45,000 number could be an underestimate: http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2013/11/deaths-due-lack-health-insurance-seriously-underestimated.html

                  There is no denying the fact that there are people who die or experience negative outcomes due to a lack of insurance. This should not be happening. It doesn’t matter if the person who is uninsured is deemed worthy of charity by the more affluent.

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/05/2017 - 10:57 am.

                    Another Reality

                    The majority of Americans suffer and have to pay too high of taxes because there are citizens who fail to learn well while the citizens invest $200,000+ into their publically funded education.

                    The majority of Americans suffer and have to pay too high of taxes because people have more children than they are capable of affording and raising well.

                    The majority of Americans suffer and have to pay too high of taxes because many of these people need to have their healthcare expenses paid for by others.

                    My point. There are 2 sides to this issue that need to be balanced.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/05/2017 - 12:15 pm.

                      Suffering?

                      You would compare the “suffering” of high taxes to being denied medical care because a person can’t afford it?

                      I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/05/2017 - 01:28 pm.

                      Personal Responsibility

                      Where in this discussion does personal responsibility and accepting the natural consequences of one’s actions fit into this discussion?

                      As for suffering… The reality is that the money for welfare, medicaid, etc comes out of the wallets of other citizens and our companies. This also makes it more expensive to do business in the USA and pushes jobs elsewhere.

                      Doing this for the truly disabled is compassionate. Doing this for people who make bad choices means that their burdens are being placed on the shoulders of innocent hard working citizens.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/05/2017 - 01:34 pm.

                      “Bad Choices”

                      And the power to decide whose choices are bad is to be granted to whom?

                      It should not be about “compassion,” Mr. Appelen. It should be about recognizing the inherent dignity of all people, regardless of whether they are MBAs with six-figure incomes, or just plain old members of the looter class.

                • Submitted by Bill Willy on 01/05/2017 - 11:39 am.

                  Just more subterfuge

                  Not having access to health insurance doesn’t kill people . . . Not having access to health CARE kills people.

                  If insurance kept people healthy and alive there would be no need for hospitals, clinics, doctors, nurses, MRI machines, etc..

                  The insurance industry adds no value to the health care system. All insurance companies do is collect money from people, redistribute it to health care providers and keep as much of the difference as they can.

                  Under the ACA’s “80/20 Rule”:

                  “Insurance companies have to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on claims and activities to improve health care quality. 85% in large group markets.”

                  http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-rate-review-80-20-rule/

                  “Private health insurance spending grew 7.2% to $1,072.1 billion in 2015, or 33 percent of total NHE [National Health Expenditures]”

                  http://www.cms.gov/research-statistics-data-and-systems/statistics-trends-and-reports/nationalhealthexpenddata/nhe-fact-sheet.html

                  You can do the arithmetic on the percentages that will tell you how much of that $1.7 Trillion health insurance companies paid themselves to collect and distribute their client’s money (20% or 15%) but any way it’s looked at, they (and their shareholders, of course) are making a pretty sweet living off of their client’s desire to stay or get well without having to do anything to help them achieve that. Unless, of course, a person considers collecting money, “processing claims” and sending health care providers checks doing something that improves people’s health.

                  Regarding senor Holbrook’s point, you may be interested in this early 2015 Fortune article.

                  “Why health insurance companies are doomed”

                  http://fortune.com/2014/10/20/health-insurance-future/

                  It too contains info and perspective on those insured/uninsured death rates and, because I know how you feel about the waste to be found (and eliminated) in bureaucracies, when I came across the subtitle in the article that says, “A bureaucracy that would make Kafka blush,” I thought of you right away.

                  Enjoy . . .

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/05/2017 - 01:18 pm.

                    Excellent

                    That is an excellent case for continuing our competitive system. Anyone who is wasteful or not needed will be removed sooner or later. Whereas with single payer there would be one intermediary with no competition.

                    Along those lines, most companies like my current employer are self insured for the majority of claims and just hire a company like Blue Cross to administer the transactions. Therefore they know exactly what the “processing cost is’. And to keep the insurance companies honest they shop around every couple of years.

                    A side note: our companies then pay another firm to cover large unplanned claims. (ie $40,000+)

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/03/2017 - 10:03 am.

      My answer is…

      Profit. Or, if you prefer, greed.

      I assume your ‘why?” question was rhetorical, but here’s an answer anyway. Unlike health care in most industrialized nations, in the U.S. – and to some extent by accident in the beginning – we base health care on a corporate, profit-driven model that either doesn’t exist in those other industrial countries, or is tightly regulated by their respective governments. Health insurance companies in this country don’t exist to provide health care. They exist to make money for their stockholders, and they have a massive lobbying presence in Washington, D. C. whose sole purpose is to maintain and, if possible, increase those profits. The health of the public (and more specifically, their policyholders) is secondary to the health of their quarterly earnings reports.

      For example, some companies have pulled out of MNSure in some markets not because Minnesotans in those areas have magically become illness and injury-free, but because those companies could not make a profit – or not as much profit as they wanted to – in those markets. No matter who he is, the President of the United States, upon whose shoulders we place a set of responsibilities that most of us can’t imagine, gets a nice rental house and airplane, several limos to use, his own chef, and is paid $400,000 annually. Stephen Hemsley, the CEO of UnitedHealth, who has far, far less responsibility than the president, doesn’t need those perks because he has received compensation totaling more than $169 million in the past 5 years (http://www.forbes.com/lists/2012/12/ceo-compensation-12_Stephen-J-Hemsley_NBHE.html), and the company’s earnings in 2015, the most recent year for which we have annual figures, were $11 billion (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160119005765/en/UnitedHealth-Group-Reports-2015-Results-Highlighted-Continued).

      That’s “why.”

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/03/2017 - 06:13 am.

    Tax complications

    We need tax reform, too complicated, to tilted towards special interest.

    Taxes never become less complicated because complications, almost invariably, reduce taxes, and given that in politics, raising taxes is difficult to do, and that and the more difficult something is, the less likely it is to happen, there simply is no political will to remove complications.

    In politics generally, there is a natural trend to complicate because complications make things harder to understand for the media and the public and therefore make easier to implement behind the scenes. Although in theory, the public wants simplicity, simplicity has no political constituency in Washington and is always, therefore, unlikely to happen.

  9. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 01/03/2017 - 08:54 am.

    And oh, House GOP Votes to Gut Independent Ethics Office

    Perhaps some of you saw this news already:
    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/house-gop-votes-gut-independent-ethics-office-44521722

    In place of this independent ethics body, the Republican propose their own. But for what purpose?

    “We all know the so-called House Ethics Committee is worthless for anything other than a whitewash — sweeping corruption under the rug,” Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, said. “That’s why the independent Office of Congressional Ethics has been so important. The OCE works to stop corruption and that’s why Speaker Ryan is cutting its authority. Speaker Ryan is giving a green light to congressional corruption.”

    Supporting this view is the following language from the House bill itself:

    “(R) Nothing in section l(f) may be construed to authorize the board of the Office to make any public statement, or release any information or other material to the public or any other entity, unless such statement or information has already been released by the Committee on Ethics or the release of such statement or information has been authorized by the Committee on Ethics.
    (S) The board of the Office is not authorized to employ any person for a position involving communications with the public, including a communications director or press spokesperson.”

    So, in short, the GOP wants to investigate itself and prevent the public from knowing about it. How could this be anything other than a recipe for corruption and poor governance?

    What’s becoming quite clear is that the GOP nationwide has reached the limits of its civic ethical imagination. Good government is not only NOT an objective, but an obstacle to Republican governance. Corruption is not to be scrupulously avoided, but something that may be useful for Republican ends. Ever improving public practices are not a universal, cross-partisan goal, but another set of obstacles to be gotten rid of to ensure Republican political power.

    The GOP is no longer interested in dialogue with the rest of the country, with engagement with scientific evidence, with standards of democracy and sound government. with compromise. The GOP has in its hands the holy truth of conservative doctrine. Its a kind of political fundamentalism, and we’re all paying a price for it.

  10. Submitted by Jon Lord on 01/04/2017 - 11:07 am.

    Well as usual

    The people who will be hurt by GOP legislation (if passed) will hurt the lower middle class and poor the most. There is no provision in their legislation that says otherwise. Because of this, a majority of those who voted for Trump and the GOP will find out the hard way what Machiavellian politics is. ‘Tell them what they want to hear, then when in office do what you want to regardless of what they want.’

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/04/2017 - 05:04 pm.

      T2

      I agree that the folks who are choosing to not work will find the next 4 years very concerning. And maybe those Public employees who have enjoyed excessive job security while collecting a good check and great benefits.

      However for most of us working stiffs I am assuming that fewer illegal workers, more jobs, higher wages, fewer regulatory hurdles, fewer taxes, lower healthcare costs, etc could be very popular.

      Of course the higher cost of foreign goods may be a bit of a shock to those who like to buy those products and services.

      • Submitted by Jon Lord on 01/06/2017 - 12:03 pm.

        You do like

        to twist things someone else says. I hear you saying that most people are employed and there isn’t a jobs crisis that Trump has heralded? Or those people who are complaining about not being able to find work just don’t want to work? I’ve wondered about that myself. It’s a red herring by the GOP maybe? You also want to eliminate government jobs adding to those unemployment figures and upping the competition for those who claim they now can’t find work. It’s so complicated isn’t it John?

        I think you still are partially living in the late 1950’s and early ’60’s in how you see the world, especially the US. The population was just under 200 million back then. Today it’s a whole lot more. 325 million and growing. Jobs are being shipped overseas. Automation is beginning to appear in many areas of the working country and will continue to do so, even in Cargill, or so they say (I believe them). Soon over the road drivers, delivery truck drivers, taxi cab drivers, Uber, etc. will be eliminated. CEO’s now make 300% to 400% and more today compared to what a CEO made back then (40% in the late 50’s early 60’s) when comparing their wages to the average working person’s wage. Wages for ‘working stiffs’ vary wildly. A person today getting $500 (3%) back in taxes compared to even $60,000 (15%) back in taxes still doesn’t seem fair to minimum wage workers.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/06/2017 - 01:04 pm.

          Agree

          I agree that CEO and Board collusion is a problem. However until the Investors complain that is their problem. (ie their money) They are supporting big rewards for big returns. (and some unfortunate golden parachutes)

          As for fewer illegal workers, more jobs, higher wages, fewer regulatory hurdles, fewer taxes, lower healthcare costs, lower public employee cost, lower welfare costs, etc should be very popular with most Americans working tax payers. Do you disagree?

          Remember that the goal is to push companies to pay lower end workers more… Correct? Therefore we want to decrease the number of these workers who are available and increase the number of jobs available for them. And as long as the majority of tags say “Made in China, Taiwan, Japan, etc” we have jobs that could be brought back through automation and a willingness to pay higher Prices for “Made in America?

          And since many on the Left support Union jobs, Higher wages for American workers, etc I am sure they will be happy paying more for their products and services as foreign goods increase in price and American workers are paid more.

          Yes automation is coming, but let’s figure out how to solve today’s problems first. And pulling the jobs back here may help solve that problem also.

          Your last sentence left me confused.

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 01/08/2017 - 09:53 pm.

            Still waiting for your proposal

            On punishing the EMPLOYERS who hire the illegals you so detest. I’ll have a go, revocation of any and all business licensure for a period of 10 years to all INDIVIDUALS involved in the process. CEO on down. Five years for the incorporated entity. 100k per worker hired in fines. Minimum 1 year actual jail time for direct decisionmakers, including upper management if knowledge of the action can be proven. 500k reward for whistleblowers, with anonymity guaranteed. I don’t need a stupid wall, you want to ACTUALLY end illegal immigration this will do it. Of course, conservatives only care about a boogeyman, so such measures will never be implemented.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/09/2017 - 04:05 pm.

              Detest

              Actually I don’t detest illegal workers at all. I simply think it is unfair that they budged in front of potential legal immigrants. And I think it is unfair that they take jobs from and lower the wages of our legal working neighbors. Not to mention the reality that if the border is so unsecure that normal people can walk across, I am pretty sure the smugglers make good use of this.

              As for punishing employers, please feel free to enforce the laws. I am fine with that.

  11. Submitted by Jon Lord on 01/08/2017 - 12:05 pm.

    The goal isn’t going to be paying workers more! Or even hiring more people. If it was we’d have just that still going on. Instead, Trump sells his clothing made in China. He makes a lot more money doing that than having them made here. That he has them made in China isn’t because people won’t pay for them if made in America. He makes a far greater profit by not having made here regardless of the price he charges Americans. Americans will pay for “Made in America” consumer goods when they can afford it, but will buy cheap when they can’t afford something ‘better’. One follows the other.
    The reason companies, like Redwing, moved factories overseas is because it was cheaper, because they could pay their employees less. A lot less. Then there’s the question of those high salaries CEO’s make, not to mention CFO’s and COO’s. That’s lure of automation too. Far fewer workers to pay so it’s coming soon to a place near you.

    I’m not sure why that last sentence confuses you? $500 versus $60,000 is a huge difference! Why would an extra $60,000 as opposed to $500 be construed as a fair deal? It gets even more uneven if one starts figuring in the differences between CEO pay versus minimum wage. Then it’s in the millions for a CEO versus $500 for a minimum wage earner. Is that what might have led to your confusion?

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/08/2017 - 03:45 pm.

      Actually

      “Americans will pay for “Made in America” consumer goods when they can afford it, but will buy cheap when they can’t afford something ‘better’. One follows the other.”

      Actually more consumers in the USA back in the 1970’s valued the Unions and “Made in America”. That is why GM, Ford, Chrysler and their employees were living large. And they could afford to pay for them. Then foreign suppliers improved their quality, offered better products, etc and the American consumers started buying those goods, because they saved money and/or aggravation by doing so.

      Then the American companies and employees had to start competing for those customers who demanded more for less. The rest is history.

      Now an American consumer can buy a Ford or GM products for about the same price as foreign products. And yet many consumers choose to send their money over seas.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 01/09/2017 - 09:24 am.

        Ah

        To live in a world that pretends marketing doesn’t exist. I wonder who is it that props up an economic philosophy that relies on easy credit as the driving force behind the consumer economy. I mean, creating a huge supply of unneeded goods, BEFORE anyone has the means or desire to pay for them IS a pillar of a certain economic school of thought, who might be it’s proponents? But no, let’s just pretend it’s all the fault of those simultaneously greedy and maddeningly frugal consumers.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 01/09/2017 - 03:59 pm.

          Please remember that I think in contributing factors, not blame.

          In this case the Big 3 had a near monopoly going and was charging large margins, The Union wanted in on the big profits so they got together and divided the spoils

          Then the foreign competitors with low cost labor, better processes, good designs and high quality showed up. Then the American Consumers did what any logical capitalist would do. They sent their money over seas, and with the money went the jobs and tax revenues.

          Now the US products are much better, more price competitive and yet many of the American Consumers still send their money over seas.

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