Category Archives: Nancy Pelosi

Perfidy Meets Putty: Congressional Democrats Betray Voters

Do you remember the promises made by the Democratic Party’s presidential and Congressional candidates on universal health insurance? You can forget their pledges and somber convictions now that your votes put the Democrats in charge of the House and the Senate. The Democrats’ leaders are abandoning their promises and retreating into a cowardly corporatist future.

Here is the present scene. Leading Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have decided to spend tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the giant health insurance companies like Aetna and United Healthcare to “cover recently laid-off workers and those who purchase their own coverage,” as the New York Times reported. There are no price restraints on the gouging insurance premiums or loophole-ridden policies. That is why giant corporate socialist insurers love the “American Rescue Plan,” which gives them socialist cash on the barrelhead. The law lets insurers decide how and whether they pay healthcare bills with co-pays, deductibles, or grant waivers. All these anti-consumer details are buried in the endless and inscrutable fine print.

Whatever happened to the Democrats’ (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pramila Jayapal, etc.) demand for single-payer – everybody in, nobody out – with free choice of doctors and hospitals instead of the existing cruel, and profiteering industry for which enough is never enough? Senator Sanders often mentioned a Yale study, published on February 15, 2020, that found:

Although health care expenditure per capita is higher in the USA than in any other country, more than 37 million Americans do not have health insurance, and 41 million more have inadequate access to care. Efforts are ongoing to repeal the Affordable Care Act which would exacerbate health-care inequities. By contrast, a universal system, such as that proposed in the Medicare for All Act, has the potential to transform the availability and efficiency of American health-care services. Taking into account both the costs of coverage expansion and the savings that would be achieved through the Medicare for All Act, we calculate that a single-payer, universal health-care system is likely to lead to a 13% savings in national health-care expenditure, equivalent to more than $450 billion annually….” (See the study: Improving the Prognosis of Health Care in the USA, February 15, 2020).

Well, House Speaker Pelosi is discouraging House Democrats from supporting Representative Pramila Jayapal’s H.R. 1384, Medicare for All Act of 2019, the gold standard for single-payer. News reports indicate that Representative Jayapal (D-WA) and Representative. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) will reintroduce their Medicare for All bill next week. Speaker Pelosi is telling Democrats in the House to focus instead on the modest expansion of Obamacare with its corporate welfare, utter complexity and seriously inadequate coverage. Almost eighty million Americans are presently uninsured or underinsured – a level that will not be significantly reduced for deprived workers by tweaking Obamacare during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A modified Obamacare, with no price ceilings, will hardly reduce the tens of thousands of American deaths every year because people cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time to prevent fatalities. The Yale study also found that: “ensuring health-care access for all Americans would save more than 68,000 lives and 1.73 million life-years every year compared with the status quo.” Tweaking Obamacare does little to stem the relentless surge in healthcare prices and profits in our country, which is unique for not placing billing ceilings on medical procedures and drugs. This “get whatever you can” behavior by the vendors is so uncontrolled that healthcare billing fraud and abuse is costing people one billion dollars A DAY! Malcolm Sparrow, who is an applied mathematician at Harvard, estimates medical billing fraud amounts to at least ten percent of all healthcare expenses each year.

Obamacare does nothing to limit the perverse incentives of a fee-for-service system that includes unnecessary operations, over-diagnosis, and over-prescribing all of which increase the risks of preventable casualties. A Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine peer-reviewed study in 2016 estimates that close to 5000 lives are lost weekly due to such “preventable problems” just in hospitals (see: Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S., May 3, 2016).

It gets worse. Year after year, the corporate Democrats, along with the Republicans, are facilitating expanding corporate takeovers of Medicare and Medicaid. The giant and widening attack on Medicare is called “Medicare Advantage,” which more accurately should be called “Medicare [Dis]advantage.” Our corporatized government, under both Parties, has been allowing deceptive promotional seductions of elderly people to take Medicare [Dis]advantage – now fully 40% of all Medicare beneficiaries – which is just a corporate insurance plan with multiple undisclosed tripwires.

Former President Trump worsened what he inherited from the Democrats in outsourcing Medicare. He launched something called “direct contracting” that, “could fully turn Medicare over to private health insurers” declared Diane Archer, former chair of Consumer Reports, in her article on March 8, 2021. Medicare Advantage premiums can be pricey. According to Kay Tillow, Executive Director of the Nurses Professional Organization, “The Medicare Advantage Plans are smiling all the way to the bank. In 2019 each Medicare Advantage beneficiary cost taxpayers $11,822 while those in original Medicare cost $10,813 each – that’s over $1,000 more and over 9% more per person for the for-profit insurers!”

Where is the outcry among Democratic politicians to reverse completely the corporate takeover of Medicare? Last year, many Democratic candidates pontificated about the need for single-payer health insurance, but now in Congress, we are scarcely hearing a peep about this vital human right. Their campaign rhetoric is just distant memory. Tragically, it is now harder than ever for the elderly to get out of Medicare [Dis]advantage and go back to traditional Medicare.

Millions of elderly people are deceived by televised marketing lies and slick brochures.  The hapless Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should investigate and end the deceptions. Congressional investigations and hearings are long overdue. As the authoritative Dr. Fred Hyde says about the so-called Medicare Advantage: “It’s not what you pay, it’s what you get.” That is, the corporate health plan works until they get sick, until “they want their doctor and their hospital.” Dr. Hyde was referring to the narrow networks where these companies park their beneficiaries.

More astonishing in this story of the rapacious corporate takeover of Medicare is that AARP promotes these flawed plans to their members, takes paid ads by big insurers in AARP publications, and derives income from this collaboration.

Imagine, over 50,000 SEIU retirees are automatically placed by their unions in these Medicare [Dis]advantage traps without first being allowed to choose traditional Medicare.

This whole sordid sabotage of the nineteen sixties Democrats’ dream, under President Lyndon Johnson, of taking the first step toward universal healthcare coverage for everyone, begs for more exposes. It begs for more clamor by the progressive Democrats in Congress who are strangely passive so far. I’m speaking of Representatives Jayapal, Raskin, Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), and the receding “Squad,” as well as Senators Warren and Sanders. If we can’t expect these stalwarts to start the counterattack that will save lives, save trillions of dollars over the years, focus on prevention not just treatment, and diminish the anxiety, dread, and fear, that the citizens of Canada and other western nations do not experience because they are insured from birth on, who is left to defend the American people against the arrogant health insurance corporate barons?

I’m sending this column to these self-styled progressive Democrats along with a two-page specific critique of corporate Medicare from the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) website. PNHP’s membership counts over 15,000 pro-single-payer physicians. In a comment on the PNHP site, Don McCanne, M.D., says, “Remember, the mission of private, for-profit Medicare Advantage insurers is to make money, whereas the mission of our traditional Medicare program is to provide health care. We are supporting a program that deferentially caters to the private insurers and their interests when we should be supporting a program that is designed to take care of patients. Those being deceived by the private Medicare Advantage marketing materials really do not realize the bad deal they may be getting until they face the private insurer barriers to needed care. Silver Sneakers won’t take care of that.” (See: https://pnhp.org/news/russell-mokhiber-explains-why-private-medicare-advantage-plans-are-a-bad-deal/)

If you care about this issue, tell your Members of Congress it is time to pass Medicare for All represented by H.R. 1384.

The post Perfidy Meets Putty: Congressional Democrats Betray Voters first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Single Payer: Which Way Forward?

To say that there’s a political disconnect in the fight for a national single payer health care delivery system is to state the obvious. The struggle for M4ALL has grown due to decades of grassroots organizing alongside the gradual worsening of Americans’ health insurance coverage, with support now reaching 70% in the general public as reported by FOX News after the November elections.

Yet now in the middle of a pandemic, where the USA accounts for a quarter of the world’s infections, and a third of the deaths, the USA’s for-profit healthcare system has no national plan or coordinated response. Instead, since so few Americans are going to the doctor this year, there is resounding joy in the industry as profits mount simultaneously with the despair of millions. The NYT reported an “embarrassment of profits” for some of the largest health insurance companies, a doubling of profits in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019. These obscene profits are coupled with staggering increases in wealth for billionaires in the healthcare sector. Their wealth has increased by 36.3% from 402.3 billion to $548 billion between April 7 and July 31, 2020. All this stands in sharp contrast to failing rural and inner city hospitals, smaller medical practices and the hundreds of thousands of unnecessary COVID deaths.

For journalists and talking heads in the mainstream media, this dysfunctional monstrosity is just the acceptable reality of our healthcare system. Discussing any responsibility or alternatives are disregarded.

With millions losing their job-based health coverage, millions more stuck with high insurance costs and lower benefits, Medicare for All is once again deemed off-the-table by all major politicians, including even its biggest proponents.

This disconnect comes on top of a worsening economic crisis threatening to push millions out of their homes while half the population is living paycheck to paycheck, poverty rising and food insecurity is growing. On the other side of the class divide, trillions of dollars have been showered on the wealthy and corporations via the misnamed CARES ACT, and the world’s billionaires have increased their wealth 10.2 trillion during the COVID pandemic. If there’s ever a perfect storm of economic, social, and public health crises, it is now.

The Republican leadership has taken advantage of this crisis and assigned blame to the largely unpopular ACA and fixated on its destruction. It has spent its political energy focusing on the high costs and other weaknesses of the ACA while never offering anything as a credible replacement.

On the other end of the aisle, President Biden has clearly stated his opposition to M4ALL, promising to veto the bill if passed. Democrat House leader Nancy Pelosi is equally opposed, making the chances of a vote remote under the current leadership. The current Democrat platform focuses on “strengthening” the ACA, an easy attack vector for Republicans who are able to exploit the real failures of the ACA and continue to disorient the public.

With these pitiful responses, disillusionment with the system is prevalent, and Americans are looking for alternatives.

Controlled Opposition or Bottom Up Independent Movement?

Which brings us to the nub of the issue. The M4ALL movement has grown, support is high and the need greater than ever. Grassroots organizing, the COVID-19 death spiral, combined with the continued deterioration of coverages and rising insurance costs has moved public support to a higher level despite a blizzard of attacks by opponents ranging from the insurance industry, media talking heads, politicians of both parties, unions, and liberals.

As it currently stands, the public overwhelmingly favors M4ALL, and the main legislation, HR 1384, has over 100 cosponsors. Yet there’s no clear strategy or energy emerging to push the bill forward in Congress or mobilize public support at this crucial time.

Despite an even deeper crisis than the 2008 recession, we are headed for a repeat of 2009, when the late John Conyers sponsored SP bill had more co-signers than any other healthcare legislation at the time, but was ditched by Democrats in favor of the ACA, a bill written by the insurance industry.

Once again, Democrats are poised to join with Republicans to scuttle the immensely popular bill in favor of the insurance industry again, all under the meek disguise of “getting something accomplished”.

Clearly, the M4All movement needs to rise to the occasion — or else risk jeopardizing its own credibility. Not only has public opinion overwhelmingly shifted in favor of M4All, but large numbers of Americans are ready to fight for it as well. The Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign drew huge amounts of activists out week after week for canvassing racked up a record number of donations.

Now with the Sanders movement gone, and the pandemic exposing the injustices within the healthcare system, M4All supporters are looking for answers.

The recent proposal by Jimmy Dore, YouTube political comedian, to force a vote on M4ALL in the House galvanized supporters, drawing tens of thousands to virtual town halls, but was overwhelmingly refuted by the officaldom of the Medicare for All movement. This has brought light on all the weaknesses of the present approach — an insider strategy that gives Congressional Democrats and the organizations that align with them too much power to unilaterally determine the direction of the struggle, while stifling voices in the grassroots. At this crucial moment, the strengthening of a popular movement is pushed aside for the sake of maintaining favorability within subsets of the Democratic party. In reality, grassroots energy is the real source of power. Rather than hitch their horses to insiders, movement leaders must drive the car, act and work in a non-partisan fashion to actually build real power.

Where some critics of Dore agree with building a mass organizing force, they scoff at his proposal and instead say work must be confined within select electoral races tied to the Democratic party and insist congressional supporters like Jayapal and Ocasio Cortez are “allies” and should not be subject to criticism. Besides the “Squad”, there are already over 100 co-signers of HB1384. What is their role in strengthening the grassroots movement? Will they hold town hall meetings and build public coalitions in their district?

Movement leaders must realize that the members of Congress must be dealt with from positions of principle and independence. Otherwise, the insider compromises progressive reps are subject to trickle down to the movement. If AOC says Medicare for All is off the table, the movement is weakened if there’s not leadership elsewhere standing up and pushing it forward. Public support is strong but we are up against an industry that is prepared to spend whatever is necessary to fight us at every turn — leadership is crucial.

In the period ahead, the peoples expectations will grow and the need for M4ALL will become clearer but so will the power of corporate Democrats who now control all branches of government. They will muzzle any grassroots mass actions and push the insider strategy and demand obedience.

Movement leaders should be wise to exploit a house vote, which would help many to understand the huge disconnect between Congress and the public. Actions like this can aid in forming a diverse coalition of labor, racial justice, and public health organizations to push for large demonstrations, public hearings, and petition drives. This is what we need to build towards: a united bloc of grassroots organizations and unions to push legislators to act.

Labor Needs to Step Up and Fight

However, labor and other organizations that should rise to the occasion and provide resources and independent leadership at this critical juncture are simply not capable, largely due to their deep ties to the Democratic party.

Organized labor has been in a steady state of decline for the past few decades. Rather than use popular struggles such as M4A to try to gain back some ground, it has largely doubled down on the business union model of operation, which treats employers as “partners”, abandons the role of membership education, mobilization, and community outreach to increase union strength and the labor movement at-large.

The lack of an organized independent current inside labor challenging the dead-end strategy of cooperation holds labor back. Witness labor’s silence over the past months on demanding wages be paid and healthcare for all workers during the pandemic, something almost all other developed countries have done. Despite hundreds of resolutions over the past decade supporting M4ALL at all levels of labor, real support is weak and ultimately folds when the Democrats give the orders. It has no real life or energy outside of a small handful of unions, and much of labor officialdom is indifferent or simply hostile to M4A, seeing brokered insurance plans as one of their last few selling points of a union to many workers, despite the share of unionized workers dropping yearly. This puts most of the top labor leadership at odds with both the growing mass of unorganized workers without unions and public opinion who are sympathetic to M4ALL and need real healthcare.

In order to win M4A, other popular programs, and stave off its own decline, labor needs a mass upsurge against the corporate domination of society and its political allies. History shows that when labor engages its rank and file into popular action, it can sweep away major hurdles that seemed impossible to overcome. The passage of Social Security in the 1930’s is one such example.

It needs an internal revitalization that advocates a fighting alternative program that mobilizes and puts people first instead of taking cues from “corporate partners” and Democratic politicians as to what is on and off the table. Building this necessary independent movement will ultimately clash with the party, and this is why Dore’s proposal has struck such a nerve. The multiple unfolding crises have put the need for a fundamental change in plain sight and progressives need to rise to the occasion.

If our only hope for Medicare for All is phone banking for intermediate legislation deemed “on the table” by the progressive caucus and working to elect more progressive Democrats to Congress, the movement will never actually move forward. With an independent movement that doesn’t take cues from “allies” in Congress, but instead uses them to help move the agenda forward, we can reach a stage where it isn’t an isolated YouTube personality making such a suggestion but membership-led organizations, backed with the participation of ordinary people, who see themselves playing a real role in this fight.

The post Single Payer: Which Way Forward? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Trump may be on trial, but the system that produced him will be acquitted

It is a fitting end to four years of Donald Trump in the White House.

On one side, Trump’s endless stoking of political grievances – and claims that November’s presidential election was “stolen” from him – spilled over last week into a mob storming the US Capitol. They did so in the forlorn hope of disrupting the certification process of the electoral college vote, which formally declared his opponent, Joe Biden, the winner.

On the other side, the Democratic Party instituted a second, unprecedented impeachment process this week, in the slightly less forlorn hope that Trump leaves office disgraced and humiliated, foreclosing any possibility he can run again in 2024.

Barely concealing its alliance with the incoming Biden administration, Silicon Valley has shut down Trump’s social media megaphone. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has lobbied the joint chiefs of staff to cut an “unhinged” Trump out of the chain of command, in a move that was reportedly rejected out of hand by Pentagon officials because, they told the New York Times, it would amount to a “military coup”.

And Biden, who boasts that he was the author the Patriot Act years before 9/11, has been touting a new “domestic terrorism” bill, as though the US did not already have a plethora of ways to crack down on dissent, of both the legitimate and the illegitimate varieties.

With this as the backdrop, Washington DC is designating the inauguration of Biden next week a “national special security event”.

Authoritarian tribes

All this is not just the latest sign that the US political system has degenerated into tawdry theatre. It is growing evidence that US politics is devolving into a permanent confrontation between two authoritarian tribes. Both are convinced that the other side is un-American, perverting the true republic. Both are unwilling to compromise, believing they share no common ground. And ultimately both are fighting for a rotten cause.

This is not a divide between ethical and unethical politics. This clash is now a bitter grudge match. It is civil war by other means. Not only is the chasm between these rival camps widening, but the real criminals are making off – as they always do – with the loot.

Each tribe has been coalescing for a while now around a centre of gravity. On the Republican side that became clear with the emergence of the Tea Party and the birther movement during Barack Obama’s tenure. But it took Trump’s election as president in 2016 to create a proper oppositional centre of gravity on the other side.

Those in the Democrat tribe who now disdain Trump and his supporters for their desperate refusal to accept November’s result overlook how they greeted Trump’s victory in 2016. They struggled to accept the legitimacy of that outcome too, even if they did not resort to the overt violence of the mob at the Capitol.

It began with arguments that, while Trump might have won the electoral college vote, he lost the popular vote. Four years ago, the electoral college also faced self-serving accusations that it had disenfranchised the majority.

The Democrat tribe took to the streets as well, in protest marches in cities across the US under the banner of the Resistance, denying Trump was their president. That was understandable, given his personal behaviour and the policies he advocated. But it did not end there.

Russian conspiracies

The disavowal of the Trump presidency quickly regressed into a dangerous narrative – one that has never properly gone away, despite the dearth of evidence to support it. The claim was not only that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump win, but that Trump himself had actively colluded with Russia to steal the election from his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Anything that had damaged Clinton – including emails showing that the Democratic leadership rigged its own primaries to make sure she was the party’s candidate rather than Bernie Sanders – got sucked into that vast conspiracy theory. That included the messenger of these bad tidings: Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

For years, the Democrat tribe has invested its considerable energies in fruitless efforts to prove its theory, including the first bid to remove Trump through an entirely self-defeating impeachment process.

None of this could be justified politically. It was a Democrat counterpoint to Trump’s MAGA slogan: “Make America Great Again”. Democrats promised the much less catchy SAPD: “Save America from President Deplorable”.

Antagonistic tango

For this tribe, Trump was an illegitimate president from the outset, one whose election to the highest office in the land revealed something unwholesome about their country they preferred to avert their gaze from because it might implicate them too. Removing Trump largely eclipsed the struggle to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.

The obsession with Trump above everything else seemingly rationalised any means – fair or foul – to be rid of him. Few thought about how this would look to his supporters or to those not already safely ensconced in one or other tribe.

Had they wished to understand, they needed only look to the storming of the Capitol last week. How they felt watching the building being ransacked – a Deplorable putting his feet up contemptuously on Pelosi’s desk – was how Trump’s tribe felt watching their president being denounced as a Russian agent and dragged through impeachment proceedings.

This mood is not likely to dissipate. The two political tribes are locked in an antagonistic tango, mirroring each other’s moves, each other’s grudges, each other’s sense of victimhood. Much more unites them than they would ever care to admit.

Festering culture war

This may be the pathology, but what of the cause.

What we see here is the culmination of a festering culture war stoked by an unhealthy investment by both sides in a simple-minded and highly divisive identity politics.

Much has correctly been made of the white supremacism of the most loyal sections of Trump’s tribe, and that was on show again during the invasion of the Capitol. The confederate flag, the neo-Nazi slogans, the T-shirts extolling the Jewish supremacy of Israel are all indicators of a toxic politics of white grievance that may be less articulated but is still felt by a wider swath of Trump’s supporting constituency.

This ugly identity politics is rightly rejected by the other tribe, but is nonetheless mirrored in its equally deep commitment to identity politics. The progressive coalition of identities at the core of the Democratic Party may be more reassuring to modern sensibilities, but has served in practice to accentuate to parts of the Trump tribe the supposed threat to their white identity.

This is not to equate the justified struggle of Black Lives Matter against endemic racism, including in the police, with the reactionary forces seeking to preserve some notion of white privilege. It is to simply observe that when the political field of battle exclusively revolves around identity, then one cannot be surprised if each side continues to frame its struggle in precisely those terms.

Those who live by the identity sword are likely to die by that same sword.

The Trump tribe want their president, and the Republican Party more generally, to guarantee a white supremacism they fear is being eroded as the Democratic Party flaunts its progressive, multicultural credentials. The Democrat tribe, meanwhile, wants to challenge the old order – and most especially reactionary institutions like local police forces – that have been an oppressive bulwark against change.

This dynamic can lead only to permanent confrontation, bitterness and alienation.

Class struggle

There is a way out of the dead-end culture war that pits one tribe against the other. It is to formulate an alternative, popular politics based on class struggle – the 99 percent against the 1 percent. But neither the Republican nor the Democratic leaderships, nor the respective medias that cheerlead them, has any interest in encouraging a political realignment of this sort.

The Democratic party is not a vehicle for class struggle, after all. Like the Republican party, it is designed to preserve the privileges of an elite. Its biggest donors, like the Republican’s, are drawn from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Big Pharma, the arms industries. The political battle in the United States is between two parties of capital united by far more than divides them.

The shadow play of US politics is the enervating, antagonistic confrontation of identities described above. While ordinary Americans get stoked into a mutual tribal loathing by a corporate media that profits from this theatre of hate, the elite enjoys a free hand to pillage the planet and the commons.

While we fixate on identities that have been crafted to divide us, while we remain immersed in the surface of politics, while we are distracted from the real battle lines, those elites prosper.

Political paralysis may not harm the establishment. But it is profoundly damaging to us, the 99 percent, when our communities are being ravaged by a pandemic, when our economies are in meltdown, when the planet is on the brink of ecological collapse.

We need a functioning political system that reflects popular priorities, like Medicare For All, a dignified minimum wage and free college; that understands the urgency of the challenges posed by multiple crises; and that can marshal and channel our energies into solutions, not into endless, irresolvable confrontations based on grievances that have been cultivated to weaken us.

Trump is not the enemy. That target is far too small and limited. The class he belongs to is our enemy, as is the system of privilege he has spent the past four years upholding and his successor will defend just as assiduously.

Whether Trump is ultimately convicted or not in the Senate, the system that produced him will be acquitted – by Congress, by the new president, by Wall Street, by the corporate media.

It is we who will pay the price.

The post Trump may be on trial, but the system that produced him will be acquitted first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Regime Change within Empire

Hundreds of protesters breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, forcing lockdowns as the US Congress was convening a joint session to count the certified 2020 Electoral College votes. The entire episode, although with a few gaps, was in the mainstream media. Death number, arrests, etc. accompanied. There are some more things. What came out was an exhibition of bourgeois politics. A part of a show of regime change in an advanced bourgeois democracy it was, also.

Some of the protesters breached hallways, offices and even the Senate chamber, forcing evacuations. Others broke windows to get inside. Capitol police had to draw guns inside in an armed standoff near the door to the House floor. Lawmakers were instructed to put on protective gas masks because police had deployed chemical irritants in Statuary Hall. They were told to lie down on floor.

In total 5 died, and more than 50 were arrested during the series of incidents, according to the corporate media. A curfew was ordered Washington DC wide.

According to some media reports, Trump, who had spoken at a rally of his supporters earlier in the day urging demonstrators to surround the Capitol, was reportedly watching the mayhem unfold from the White House dining room. Trump released a video telling demonstrators to “go home.” The video was subsequently blocked by Facebook and Twitter.

The Washington, DC mayor has extended the public emergency order for a total of 15 days to beyond January 20.

Interestingly, astonishingly also, strange utterances were made.

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, addressed his colleagues on the Senate floor after it reconvened Wednesday evening: “What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the President of the United States.”

No confusion, please. “[A]n insurrection incited by the President of the United States.” A senator makes the claim, and a senator can never be irresponsible, at all irresponsible, neither in his words nor in actions.

Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer each condemned the actions of Trump supporters. Schumer repeatedly referred to those who breached the Capitol as “thugs.”

A president assembles “thugs” to charge the legislative assembly!

Senator Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., said: “The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent […]”

Oh ho, violence goes on there!

Vice President Mike Pence returned to the Senate floor Wednesday night, and said: “Today was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.”

A dark day it’s! Is it a bolt from the blue? How was it engendered? All on a sudden, by a single person? No source, nothing behind this “dark day”?

Former POTUS Barack Obama in a statement presented an explanation to the questions: “History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise.”

Reference to history is useful. History will look into a lot instead of an individual and a few acts. History will also look at the process, the inner-game, the gambling with power, the persons representing factions running the process. History will be harsh.

Jim Mattis, POTUS Trump’s former defense secretary, said in statement: “Today’s violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump. His use of the Presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison our respect for fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice. […] Mr. Trump will deservedly be left a man without a country.”

A president foments a mob to subjugate a democracy, and the president was elected, not a usurper, and the elected person was entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the constitution of the republic, and the president had also the responsibility of the commander-in-chief, who had fingers on buttons of nuclear arsenal! Is it a problem with the president or with the system?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose office on Capitol Hill was among those overtaken by Trump’s supporters, sent a letter to colleagues: “Today, a shameful assault was made on our democracy. It was anointed at the highest level of government. [….]”

She said: “We now will be part of history, as such a shameful picture of our country was put out to the world, instigated at the highest level.”

No doubt that all, persons, processes and incidents, will be part of a history – the history of politics of a group in a particular type of democracy in a declining empire.

Former POTUS George W. Bush said in a statement: “Laura and I are watching the scenes of mayhem unfolding at the seat of our Nation’s government in disbelief and dismay. It is a sickening and heartbreaking sight. This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic. I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement. The violent assault on the Capitol – and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress – was undertaken by people whose passions are inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes. Insurrection could do grave damage to our Nation and reputation. In the United States of America, it is the fundamental responsibility of every patriotic citizen to support the rule of law. To those who are disappointed in the results of the election: Our country is more important than the politics of the moment.”

The fact has been unearthed: A banana republic has crept in the heart of an empire, considered the most advanced, the most sophisticated political system in the world. Who created the banana republics in other regions? How were those created? Why an a banana republic turns a banana republic? Any country is more important than politics of the moment of the concerned country. But, politics doesn’t grow without a country as a country with its economy creates politics of a moment and of moments. It’s not a politics of a moment; it’s politics of factions of a ruling regime – a system with purse and people having the purse.

US president-elect Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday: “It’s not a protest. It’s an insurrection.”

No statement from a president should be taken casually. So, goes the claim: “It’s an insurrection.” An insurrection? Why such an insurrection? Is there any failure behind this insurrection? What’s its  source? And, its connections? Factional fight leads a faction to organize an insurrection? Was not there any alternative? Why was not there any alternative to the insurrection? Why a faction resorts to such path to settle factional contradiction?

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following joint statement Wednesday: “We are calling on President Trump to demand that all protestors leave the US Capitol and Capitol Grounds immediately.”

To push out protestors, POTUS is needed!

Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., told CNN Wednesday: “I haven’t seen anything like this since I was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2008. This is America and this is what is happening right now.”

Nothing to disagree with the comparison. Regime change in Iraq had a different style. Iraq witnessed intrigues, cruise missiles, bombardments, and killings – a shower of brutality. That was not the factional fight of the Empire’s ruling classes. That was a pure and unadulterated imperialist aggression.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell excoriated his GOP colleagues:

“If this election were overturned by objections from the losing side, our democracy would be in a death spiral.

“We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate realities.”

Has not that spiral begun yet? What does the process and incidents tell? The spiral will appear stark if an insight is thrown at the core.

In a rally prior to charging of the capitol, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said he wants a “trial by combat” over the election results.

“Combat” turns out as a word of politics that relies on constitutionality.

According to a news report, “[a] newly elected lawmaker from West Virginia was among the hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol building Wednesday. Republican Rep. Derrick Evans posted a now-deleted livestream video to Facebook that shows him moving through the building as people in Trump hats mill about.

“‘We’re in! We’re in!’ he yells at one point.”

“In one video posted Wednesday morning, Evans can be heard saying ‘Stop the steal baby.’”

A lawmaker storming the Capitol!

Another news-report said:

“A Virginia state senator said Wednesday’s storming of the US Capitol signaled the beginning of a ‘revolution.’

“In a Facebook live post broadcast hours after speaking at the D.C. rally that preceded the riot, Virginia State Sen. Amanda F. Chase said supporters should not believe media reports of riots at the Capitol, as ‘most of it’s not even true.’

Chase said she saw the rioters as “many patriots that have already said we’ve had enough.”

“I support peaceful protests,” she said in the post Wednesday night, “but I’m telling you when you back people in Virginia and across the United States of America into a corner, you will end up with a revolution. And I believe that’s what you’re starting to see.”

So, there’s change in narratives, that carries meaning. It also is significant.

One man charging the Capitol said: “This is epic, epic. We’re taking the Capitol back, thank God.”

Why a person makes such a claim? Is it from thin air?

Another person shouted an F word. Another person yelled: “The president invited us here and we’re not leaving.”

A president invites such persons? Why such persons?

Why is there such a rage? Why a president invites such persons to charge a legislative assembly?

According to other news-reports, “[b]y late afternoon, an almost festival atmosphere prevailed outside the Capitol: participants celebrated the storming of the building and traded stories about getting tear-gassed. Vendors sold popcorn and pretzels, and some departing participants rode off in bicycle rickshaws.

“Several participants carried ‘Election fraud is treason’ signs. They declined to specify who they believed should be punished, but pointed out a nearby gallows. Closing in on 4 p.m., thousands of participants streamed away from the Capitol building, many laughing and jeering the politicians they had intimidated.

Gallows? For whom the gallows wait?

Chad Heuer, 45, said he traveled from southern Michigan to watch Trump speak because he wants members of Congress to listen to what Trump supporters say. “We have a constitution. Let’s uphold it,” Heuer said.

Michele Haynes from Las Vegas, unwilling to accept the reality that Joe Biden will become president, said she’s “sure there are other options” for Trump to remain in office regardless of what happens in Congress. She said Americans won’t accept Biden as president. “They have more,” she said of allegations of voter fraud. “It’s going to be revealed.”

Sherri Lynn Womack, a member of the Lee County board of education in North Carolina, said she traveled to Washington to demand better election security and stronger voter ID laws. She cited what she believes are “suspicious” videos of ballot counting in Georgia. “I’m not one of those conspiracy theorists,” she said. “But these are legitimate questions that need to be asked.”

David Tate, 32, a truck driver from New Hampshire, said he drove 14 hours because he doesn’t want his three children to grow up under a Biden administration. He said he doesn’t believe Biden could have gotten the amount of votes he did because of the massive crowds Trump drew compared to the smaller events held by Biden. “It’s kind of our right and our duty as American citizens to stand up against this naked treason,” he said.

Among those on the National Mall was Angela Strong, 41, a sixth-generation Texan who said she had ancestors on the Mayflower and others who fought in the Civil War. “If they were willing to sacrifice everything to defend liberty and freedom, I could come down to support the cause for freedom,” Strong said. She said debate has been stifled in America, and people who disagree can’t have a conversation without arguing.

Strong said she couldn’t speak to Trump’s claims of voter fraud because Texas was not that close of a race, but added that concerns raised by people in other states such as Pennsylvania should be heard. Experts have agreed, however, that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. “If their citizens and legislators are questioning it in any contested state, it shouldn’t be ignored,” she said. “We have to give those voices the opportunity to say how they feel and why it is they feel that way.”

What do these voices mean? Are these to be ignored or not? What do these voices signify? What’s the identity of these voices? Do they represent anything? Alternatively, are they nothing more than a bunch of individuals? Are the utterances, official and non-official, establishment and non-establishment, to be considered for an analysis of the state of the Empire? Whatever is done – taken into account, analyzed or ignored – a part of regime change in the Empire has come out in front of the mass media audience around the world, and that part is not that much of a joyful one. Rather, it says some disease is there, which will resurface repeatedly until fully cured.

The post Regime Change within Empire first appeared on Dissident Voice.

#ForceTheVote Pressure Growing from Inside

Force The Vote! We demand that every progressive in Congress refuse to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House until she publicly pledges to bring Medicare for all to the floor of the House for a vote in January: https://forcethevote.org/

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A Modernly Ancient Crustacean Mutation or Consider the Trump’pelosi

Hey you, White House:  Ha ha, charade you are!

— Pink Floyd, “Pigs,” from the album Animals, 1977

Here, on the bristling with White Noise precipice of another trumped-up quadrennial election, all who choose — or are “permitted” — to participate in this farce face a stark reality.  Donald Trump is the Mayor of Crazy Town these days (a fact still crazy on its face, of course…), and this election appears to be little more than a final court hearing on the divorce of Trump from his trusty-yet-faithless spouse in the House, Nancy Pelosi, in light of which the impeachment proceedings were merely preliminary…

Credit Card Country Joe Biden, the best-known — even while being the least-seen — presumptive challenger to the American mayoral throne, is strictly a side-piece in this sordid affair.  His Masked-off-from-the-Public campaign almost speaks for itself:  “Hey Fat!…You’re not Black!…You know — the Thing!…I probably shouldn’t say anything…”  Biden’s been out-to-lunch in his basement getting high on the Polls, playing false-positive to Trump’s manifest negative.  His candidacy could be excused, perhaps, as an ironic symbol of the cognitive decline of American political discourse.  However, no one’s really voting for side-show Joe;  the main stage in this political theater sponsored by the Game of Donors Corporation is reserved for the bipolar Trump’pelosi Circus.

The origin story of this political monster, a freak of late-phase capitalist nature, is somewhat in dispute.  Research upon this Neo-con-liberal chimera is undecidedly mixed, and perhaps reveals the doctrinal biases of the researchers more than anything else.

On one side of the Trump’pelosian divide, studies purport to show that this grotesque phenomenon arose from an especially toxic, antediluvian swamp; the PNAC chicken-hawk Max Boot-licker, for example, goes way out on a missing link or limb to see signs of the Trump’pelosi as far back as Thucydides.  Other researchers insist — au contraire! — that this bipart’insanely duopolistic creature Mama bears all the claw and fang marks (not Karl Marx…) of a far more modern, bio-political laboratory creation.  Yet another school of thought posits that the Trump’pelosi is most lucidly — however luridly — comprehensible when perceived as a fundamentally conjugal, or con-jugular, expression of realpolitik, a perspective that implicitly de-emphasizes the bio-genetic origin story of this Janus-faced goblin Nevertheless, before casting too much credence here, it should be noted that this view also contends that a Transylvanian — not a Chinese! —  bat caused the novel coronavirus plaguing the Planet today (Sorry:  New WHO or CDC guidelines mandate gratuitous — no matter how non sequitur — COVID references in all communications, according to the daily, hourly, and minutely up-dated censorship rules; much like any other young’un, the Virus demands constant attention…).

Beyond any and all mandatory COVID digressions, however, this political gargoyle behooves us to produce actual evidence of its transactionally sinister nature. Well, look no further than the case of “the Squad!”  The Pelosi side of the Trump’pelosi diumvirate cracked a quick whip after the Democrats rushed the House in 2018, as the Nancy soon got all 4 of those uppity young “colored” gals into line, like a spooky drill sergeant from beyond-the-grave:  “No turns to the Left or South, girls!  Only right, white, right!?”  Trump barked, but Pelosi applied the muzzle.  In light of the taming of the “Squad!”, then, the conjugal theory of the freak Trump’pelosi crustacean mutation certainly has a leg or claw to stand on.

After putting “the Squad!” in its place, the Nancy did not lose time doubling-down on the Trump’pelosi’s latest victory over the “Left,” by conspicuously posing with all of that “fabulous Ice Cream!”– just in case we all had not noticed who the winner was, and is, until further notice.  In an even more brazen celebration, the Pelosi-side went on a shopping spree, purchasing a kente cloth to show fealty to her new favorite flavor of ice cream, Black Lives Matter.  Meanwhile, her less-than-better half has been down on his KFC-bucket luck of late, but that’s how marriages go sometimes.

The self-contesting nature of this artificial beast was perhaps most symbolically on display during the Trump-half’s State of the Union address back in early February, or before anyone in officialdom was taking the coronavirus seriously.  On the one hand, Trump threw the spotlight on failed Venezuela coup puppet Juan Guaido, delusionally referring to him as the real president of Venezuela.  Trump was not alone in this delusion, as the entire chamber erupted in applause, including the eminent Pelosi, clearly signaling her approval of this attempted regime change operation.  On the other hand, with the same hands that enthusiastically clapped for our would be Boy-in-Caracas, the Nancy-half melodramatically tore her other-half’s speech in two in true “cliff-hanger” fashion, as if the whole show were merely a soap opera “To-Be-Continued…”

Back in the 1980s, there was this observational joke floating around that a “liberal” was just a “conservative in jogging shoes.”  Jogging was trending as a form of exercise in those days, when true-red conservatives were running the show with Ronny Reagan, a former B-movie actor, appropriately enough.  This “conservative” run technically ended when Bill Clinton jogged into office in 1992, championing a new breed of “liberal.”  Clinton’s jog through two terms in the White House also set the stage for the kind of political theater we have now:  bipartisan consensus Abroad, with an increasingly divisive style of bickering at Home.  The Trump’pelosi farce at the 2020 State of the Union speech shows that this paradigm is still very much in play.

In a way, then, the bizarre presidency of Donald Trump was grafted onto a pre-existing political condition perhaps best embodied by Nancy Pelosi, who has been directing traffic inside the Beltway since 2003.  That this Orange-skin-graft (or grift) has not gone smoothly hardly diminishes the efficacy of the Trump’pelosi, whether or not the November Election results in a surgical reversal, or divorce, thereby removing this “foreign” specimen transplanted into the DC swamp by a most unusual election 4 years ago.  That the Trump’pelosi has been a Neo-con-liberal job all the way is also seen by the fact that, while the Trumpian side of this Frankenstein’s monster bragged about wishing to torture “terrorists,” it was Pelosi who gave a free pass to actual torture under the W. Bush administration, a fact which has only recently come to this writer’s attention thanks to Jimmy Dore, who has quite rightly highlighted this obvious lowlight of the Pelosian regime.  Raptors of a feathery scale tend to…leer at the Public as so much carrion to feast upon.  The Trump’pelosi is just such a Raptor, speaking of antediluvian swamps…

All of which brings us back to the prospect of Joe “Dark winter” Biden, the Scarecrow leading all the straw polls, supplanting the illegitimate Trump for the American Mayoral scepter and crown.  But, “illegitimate’s” a funny epithet in this context, considering that then-President Barack O’Bushma was the very first leading citizen to endorse the Donald’s “election,” and Hillary herself, who had jogged such an out-of-breath (but not out of the almighty Money!) campaign against Mr Trump, was a quick second to Obama’s endorsement of Trump.  What to make of that?  These days it seems that American elections are even more suspect than their Venezuelan equivalents.  So:  Will Juan Guaido cast the deciding vote in this year’s election? Hint:  Guaido’s probably a better bet here than Vladimir Putin who — Stop the Presses! — may just be a Clinton “asset” after all…As they say in Soap Opera Land:  “To Be Continued…”

The post A Modernly Ancient Crustacean Mutation or Consider the Trump'pelosi first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Trump and Biden Trade Hit Pieces: Distinctions without a Difference

This season’s sequel to the Game of Thrones features reality TV star and current occupant of the Oval Office versus the former Senator from MBNA and two-term VP. It’s time to binge watch dueling hit pieces from the US electoral duopoly going at it.

The narrower the distinctions between Democrats and Republicans, the more vociferous they get in inflating those distinctions, as if a distinction were really a difference. As liberation president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere famously observed, “The United States is a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.”

War with China – thinking through the unthinkable

Behind the blame game between the Democrats and the Republicans is a bedrock consensus, for example, on identifying China as not just a commercial rival but as a future enemy in a nuclear war. The US imperial ship of state is set on a collision course with China. Democrat Obama “pivoted” to Asia; Republican Trump seamlessly followed course. The RAND Corporation, a quasi-governmental think tank created to provide intelligence to the US Armed Forces, published a position paper that spells it out: War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable.

The corporate media echo the meme of China as the sinister enemy. The Democrat-leaning New York Times reports, “Chinese agents helped spread messages that sowed virus panic in US.” “Alarmed by fake text messages and social media posts,” the newspaper of record warns, “experts see a convergence with Russian tactics.” With no sense of shame, the Times then accuses the “pro-Trump news outlets” of promoting “conspiracy theories.”

On the Republican side, Fox commentator Tucker Carlson hyperbolically exclaims, “China did this [coronavirus pandemic] to the world and we should not pretend otherwise.”  Paranoically exhorting that “in very real ways, the Chinese government controls us,” Carlson demands, “at some point our leaders should be held accountable” for allowing China to “undermine” us.

So ditto head Biden issues a campaign video entitled, “Trump did not hold China accountable,” attacking Trump for correctly saying, “China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus.” This view, incidentally, is shared by the World Health Organization, which praised China for its exemplary handling of the pandemic. The corresponding Trump hit piece retorts with a video of Biden saying, “I complimented him [Trump] with dealing with China.”

Proving that the rightwing media and Trump do not have a lock on xenophobia and racism, the Democratic Party ad shows Biden screaming, “I would be on the phone with China and making it clear, we are going to need to be in your country! You have to be open!” And “Trump let in 40,000 travelers from China…left this country unprepared and unprotected” from the Asian menace.

Non-essential services – rubber stamping the bipartisan consensus

The direction of US imperial policy is unquestioned as the partisan rivals compete to see, for example, who can be the bigger Sinophobe. Not mentioned is that China’s rising economic power is in part a consequence of the US neoliberal consensus to export industrial production to low-wage Asia. Protecting the US working class is not what the politicians are squabbling about.

Nor do they deeply differ on Trump’s National Security Strategy, which broke with the previous characterization of the world as a “community of nations” to the present description of a great power “competitive arena.” In the drive to achieve global “full spectrum dominance,” China and Russia are identified as military targets.

Substantive unity between the Democrats and Republicans is obscured by the smoke and mirrors of partisan bickering. On some issues, the duopoly is so unanimous they do not even bother to make a show of debating.

March 8, the US House of Representatives pushed through a bipartisan resolution increasing illegal unilateral sanctions against Nicaragua, which passed on a unanimous voice vote in eight minutes, with no debate and no one speaking in opposition.

By the end of March, after only a “smidgeon of negotiating,” Congress unanimously passed the record astronomical $2 trillion CARES Act boondoggle. While workers are experiencing the highest recorded unemployment, the bipartisan act will gift 43,000 rich citizens an average “windfall” of $1.7 million each, according to Forbes.

Then while healthcare, transportation, sanitation, and other vital workers remain on the job, the Congress critters went on recess to shelter in place, demonstrating that theirs is not an essential service.

The decadence of the US two-party system

Being on the take at the expense of the US people is a bipartisan pastime and a mark of finesse for the inside-the-beltway crowd. Senators on both sides of the aisle benefited by insider trading, dumping stocks after a confidential coronavirus briefing.

Trump’s corruption needs no elaboration, but he can legitimately criticize the Dems on the same count. A Trump hit piece points out that father Biden took son Hunter on a taxpayer funded official US government visit to China, where the son profited with a “billion dollar deal” with a subsidiary of the Bank of China.

The highest-ranking Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears in a video showing how she’s persevering through shelter-in-place, giggling in front of her $24k refrigerators stocked with expensive ice cream.  A Trump hit piece juxtaposes that image with one of the millions of unemployed in this country saying, “we’re starving.”

Joe Biden cluelessly compounds the error by tweeting, Nancy Pelosi has “great taste” in ice cream. Meanwhile nearly 2,700 families preregistered at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank drive-up. NPR reported 10,000 cars waited hours in line for emergency food aid in San Antonio.

A couple of years ago, former Democratic Party presidential candidates John Kerry and Hillary Clinton attended a wedding hosted by the richest mogul in India for his daughter, estimated to cost $100 million by Bloomberg. While John and HRC inanely danced Bollywood-style, 170 million Indians barely subsisted on less than $2 per day.

Internet comedian Jimmy Dore observes:

The Democratic Party is so corrupt, so unbelievably corrupt and out of touch, that a guy who sits [not his exact word] on a golden toilet gets to make fun of them for being out of touch elitists. And it lands.

We will have to wait until November to see who the Electoral College anoints in its game of thrones. Even the premier progressive pundit Noam Chomsky finds the only remotely redeeming quality in Biden is that he isn’t Trump. Biden supported Bush’s Iraq war and sided with the Republicans to defeat the student bankruptcy and prescription medicine price control bills. He voted for cutting Social Security and for confirming Antonin Scalia. With Democrats like this, you don’t need Republicans.

The problem with voting for either the Republicans or Democrats – besides that they rule – is that you need a score card to figure out which is the lesser evil. That problem can be avoided by helping to build a left third-party movement. As socialist and one-time presidential candidate Eugene Debs commented: “I’d rather vote for something I want and not get it, than vote for something I don’t want and get it,” …like war with China.

Cowardly Congress Chooses to be AWOL: Shouldn’t Our Elected Representatives be on the Job Providing Essential Services?

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic a careening, confused President is fibbing, flailing, breaking laws, and mishandling money. As the domino effect of this crisis mounts, the public is asking: “Where is the Congress?” Our Senators and Representatives have been home since March 20 and won’t be back until May 4th, not on the job inside the Capitol. Shameful!

Worse, some lawmakers want a remote Congress so they can remain AWOL and pretend to deal with the many crises remotely.

Why? Fear of the pandemic? Escaping rollcall responsibility? No matter that Congress can follow all the CDC guidelines and more for personal protection. No matter that millions of essential workers – some a few blocks from Congress, bravely go to work to perform their critical duties. Healthcare, transit, grocery, police, maintenance and sanitation workers, many executive branch civil servants and others are faithfully on the job.

Congress should be working harder than ever – 6 days a week, not its usual 21/2 days. Congress should be monitoring the spending of trillions of dollars it approved for recovery, and passing improved rescue legislation that puts the people first. Congress should also be anticipating and preventing the ugly greed of commercial lobbyists who will cravenly push for more giveaways for their fat-cat big-business clients. The devil is in the details and in the fine print of new and upcoming bills. Scams, gouging, waste, and corruption are exploding already in a corporate crimewave while the President pulls the federal cops off their beats.

Thirteen million people will lose their health insurance between March and July of this year. Over 25% unemployment is bringing untold fear, dread, and deprivations to millions of families. Where are the indispensable 535 lawmakers? Back at home ignoring their duties.

Small businesses and family farms, lacking the reserves and political privileges of big business, are suddenly experiencing a deadly freefall in sales with slow arrivals of temporary federal assistance. Many will face ruin and bankruptcy. Lifetimes of work smashed.

Trump has encouraged the EPA to stop enforcing violations of prohibited pollution laws. Trump’s FDA announced that it was suspending inspections of foreign plant exporters of food and drugs to the U.S. The President is even threatening the existence of our post offices.

Where is the Congress? It’s halls and committee rooms are empty!

With knowing criminal intent, the Trumpsters are running the life and health saving Federal agencies into the ground. Under Trump’s puppet Andrew Wheeler, the EPA has become the environmental pollution agency. OSHA has been turned upside down. Trump is even weakening nursing home safety regulations in our pandemic. Scientists and other civil servants are being muzzled or pushed out.

Where is Congress? It is looking for how it can push button constitutional duties from perches back home. Can Congress truly believe that it can run our national legislature from home? There is no substitute for members of Congress convening in real time in the nation’s capital. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution requires a quorum to conduct Congressional lawmaking. The full Senate voted in person in March to pass the $2.2 trillion relief/bailout package.

Now, Congress agrees another large assistance law is needed. It has to be preceded by hard work, the best ideas, public hearings, tight drafting, and intense deliberation over long days.

So far Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is on the job, is resisting remote voting. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said he agrees, but he led the flight out of Congress back to Kentucky a month ago.

Many of these pampered politicians, comfortable at home in their safe gerrymandered districts, drawing their regular salaries and benefits while watching or reading the stories of courageous workers risking their lives daily for pittances, will go down in history as cowards. Historians will not treat them kindly.

Meanwhile these so-called guardians of our crucial constitutional separation of powers are having a mock video hearing to try to show Congress can go online. This is indefensible when we have a Constitution-breaking monarchical president who says: “I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

Sovereign people – give your Senators and Representatives, who have fled Washington and are back home, a galvanizing piece of your mind. Just pick up the phone and dial your member or the Congressional switchboard (202-224-3141) and make your needs known. Remind them that if they don’t get back to work, you’ll remember in November.

Democrats Team Up With Trump to Maintain Disastrous Healthcare System

On Tuesday, February 4, Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union (SOTU) address. As expected, it was filled with contradictions, falsehoods, and distortions. Among other things, Trump spoke for close to ten minutes about health care in the U.S., claiming that he “will always protect Medicare.” However, neither Trump and the Republicans, nor the Democrats can be trusted when it comes to health care.

Just last week, for example, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump suggested he would think about cutting Medicare and Social Security to reduce the federal deficit. The Trump administration also recently announced it would take steps to overhaul Medicaid through a program ironically named “Healthy Adult Opportunity,” allowing states to choose to cut federal government funding they receive at a lump sum or block grant instead of paying a fixed percentage of costs. The goal is for states to reduce spending by decreasing health provider reimbursements, limiting drug coverage, or making it difficult for individuals to qualify for care. Trump’s plans for his 2021 budget are lockstep with his previous statements and would increase military spending while cutting Medicare and Medicaid.

This all comes from an administration that ran on a platform of protecting such programs.  As Trump told Fox News in 2015, “People have been paying in for years. They’re gonna cut Social Security. They’re gonna cut Medicare. They’re gonna cut Medicaid […] I’m the one saying that I’m not gonna do that!” Yet the administration’s most recent budget called for a total of $1.9 trillion in “cost savings” from programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Who Heads Government Health Programs?

Despite Trump’s SOTU remarks, his recent proposals should be no shock when one looks at who he tapped to oversee the distribution of healthcare in the United States. Seema Verma, who helped announce the “Healthy Adult Opportunity” program, serves as head administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Prior to being appointed to her position, Verma was President, CEO and founder of SVC, Inc., a national health policy consulting company which helped drive Republican state-level Medicaid reforms while also encouraging state outsourcing to private companies converting government funding into private profits. Since taking office, Verma has been instrumental in allowing states to institute work requirements—essentially requiring Medicaid beneficiaries to prove they are working, by logging work hours regardless of computer or internet access, in order to get health care. She has also railed against universal health care, stating National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) would “strip choice away from millions.”

Trump’s initial Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Tom Price—who resigned in 2017 after it was revealed that he used taxpayer money on personal travel—sponsored congressional budgets to turn Medicaid into a block grant program. Now-current HHS Secretary Alex Azar, sworn into office in 2018, was former head of the pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly and played a key role in driving up prices of crucial medicines, such as insulin, to increase profits. Individuals like Azar have proven time and again that they will not work to “lower drug prices” as Trump touted in his SOTU. Instead, Azar will defend the corporate elite; his new government position puts him in a perfect place to do just that. With individuals such as these heading the US healthcare system, it is no wonder such policies are being proposed.

The Democrats Aren’t Innocent Bystanders

While some members of the Democratic Party will want to condemn or distance themselves from these efforts, it is important to note their culpability in helping create the environment for Trump’s current policy proposals. For example, cutting safety net programs that working people rely on is not new for Democrats. As The Intercept recently reported, “As early as 1984 and as recently as 2018, former Vice President Joe Biden called for cuts to Social Security in the name of saving the program and balancing the federal budget.” Biden advocated for freezing spending on “every single solitary thing in the government” including Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ benefits.

And Joe Biden is not an outlier. Under the capitalist system, advocating for programs of “austerity” to combat the crises that are built into the system is standard practice. Austerity is often recommended despite evidence suggesting government cuts typically worsen economic downturns. Professor of Economics, Richard Wolff, has analyzed how this system functions, arguing that in times of economic growth, austerity is capitalists’ preferred policy: it means less taxes and thus more profits for them. In times of economic downturn, however, they are the first beneficiaries of state-sponsored bailouts, which require governments to run massive budget deficits.

The cycle Wolff describes only benefits the rich—Democrats and Republicans alike play into it. Despite their rhetoric to the contrary, the Democrats advocate for austerity just as Republicans do, because ultimately they are beholden to the same capitalist interests that run the country.

It should be also noted that the entire distribution of health care under the current for-profit model allows for continued cuts and alterations to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to occur. Dominated by the interests of the medical-industrial complex, leaders of the Democratic party have never articulated the vision that health care should be a human right and the profit motive should be removed from health care. They have never been able to collectively articulate that National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) is the only path to a relatively rational health care system.

Obama was not only not able to garner support for NIMA, but gave up even the modest reform of a public option when advocating for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the ACA did expand Medicaid coverage, Democrats have attempted to frame its passage as a colossal win and this is simply not the case. The ACA mandates individuals purchase insurance from private, for-profit insurance companies, and still leaves 31 million Americans out of coverage. This has created  a situation in which being underinsured is quickly becoming the new normal. The bill was really anything but a win for the majority of Americans.

Trump also spent part of his SOTU bashing NIMA proposals calling them a “socialist takeover of the healthcare system that would disrupt the care of many “happy Americans.” One would think that today with various polls showing a majority of the public now wants Medicare for All, Democrats would oppose Trump’s rhetoric and advocate for such policy. Unfortunately, Democratic elites still refuse to accept NIMA’s popularity. Instead of getting uniformly behind universal health care, we have seen proposals ranging from strengthening the ACA (Biden) to proposals resembling a public option (Buttigieg).

Warren and Sanders have been the only two candidates who have had the courage to advocate going further to Medicare for All. Faced with conservative backlash, however, Warren has considerably back-pedaled on her Medicare for All rhetoric, now saying she would wait until at least her third year in office to attempt implementation. As for the proposed “leader” of the party, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, it was reported as recently as 2019 that her top policy aide was meeting with Blue Cross Blue Shield executives and assuring them they did not have to worry about Medicare for All. It appears Pelosi believes her energies would be better suited feigning progressiveness by ripping up Trump’s speeches, rather than actively opposing his poor health care policies by supporting the movement for NIMA.

Often Democrats and Republicans alike who are opposed to the NIMA claim it would be too costly. Various versions of “how we are going to pay for it?” are brought up over and over. Even if one ignores the fact that 30 years of single payer research shows NIMA would save money compared to the status quo, it is peculiar this same argument is not used when discussing funding for instruments of suffering, death, and destruction. The same conversation is never had when talking about providing tax incentives for large capitalist institutions to continue to oppress workers and destroy the planet. The same conversation was not had after 188 Democrats recently joined with Republicans to approve a $738 billion military budget—a budget which upholds the US military contributing more to pending climate collapse then 140 countries combined. The same conversation was not had after the Pentagon failed its first ever audit in 2018 and mysteriously could not account for $21 trillion dollars from 1998 to 2015.

NIMA: A Step Forward for the Working Class

As we have argued in the past, NIMA would be a large step forward for the working class. Currently close to 50% of the US population obtains their healthcare through their employers. This keeps workers in a vulnerable position when it comes to organizing in the workplace, because if a worker loses their job, they and their  family could lose health care coverage, which can be devastating for those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or various forms of cancer.

Not having NIMA also puts the public at the mercy of large insurance companies, hospital corporations, and pharmaceutical companies whose number one priority is profit maximization. This leads to companies trying to raise prices for the “product” as much as possible, which leaves the public in an economically precarious position. Today some 70 million Americans are struggling to pay off medical debt, and medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the country. A sudden illness in the US can mean financial ruin. A 2018 study in the American Journal of Medicine (AJM) found almost half of cancer patients studied depleted their entire life savings by the second year of treatment. The financial burden that illness can cause on working-class families under the current for-profit health care—or, put differently, the “exploitation of illness”—is nothing short of outrageous. It shackles working people and keeps them focused on struggling with not only their illness, but also their debt.

The Need to Go Beyond National Improved Medicare for All

The left needs to not only oppose the Trump administration’s current proposals, but advocate for National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) and for health care for all as a human right. At the same time connections must be made to the dynamics of capitalism and imperialism continually benefitting capitalists at expense of us all. The current revolving door system that operates as a result of wealth and power concentration inside capitalism, allows executives from exploitative institutions to continually guide the policy of both Republicans and Democrats. This only reiterates the need to move beyond a two party system structured to benefit the ruling class. In order to take on the vested interests of the medical industrial complex and provide health care each of us wants and needs, we must overcome an economic system based on exploitation and oppression. This system damages the health and well-being not just of humans, but all life systems on our planet. Only once we can transcend capitalism will we have not only a truly just health care system, but a society that prioritizes life and health over capital accumulation.

Failed Prosecutions: Donald Trump Survives the Senate

Never undertake a prosecution unless you have good grounds, and prospects, for a solid conviction.  In the case against President Donald Trump, there was never a serious prospect that the Senate would cool sufficiently to give the Democrats the votes necessary to affirm vote of impeachment in the House.  The GOP remains very much in Trump’s pocket, a remarkable if opportunistic transformation given the innate hostility shown towards him prior to the 2016 elections.  With their allegiance pinned to the Trump juggernaut, the hope is that, come November, the entire effort won’t sink under the toxic miasma that is US politics.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had agonised over the original decision to pursue Trump through impeachment proceedings.  One argument that seemed persuasive was the sense that too much energy would be consumed in the process, taking away from the election cycle and jeopardising the campaign to oust Trump at the ballot box.  She held out for a time, keeping the firebrands at bay.  But the demands of her office, and those around her to do something to combat Trump’s claimed misdemeanours in office, were too profound to ignore.  Even if the effort was bound to lose, a stand had to be made.

Political strategists, however, thought of alternatives as to how best to land enduring blows.  Douglas Heye, former deputy chief of staff to House Majority leader Eric Cantor, felt that censure was more appropriate and would have constituted “a serious rebuke of Trump’s action and might have even garnered some bipartisan support.”

Once commenced, the approach of the Democrats seemed clipped, a crude abridgment that was as much a matter of caution as it was of fear.  The articles of impeachment were narrow, pegged to the issue of Ukraine, the nexus with US electoral interference, and obstruction of Congress.  The meaty report of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, played no part.

For all that, the case against Trump did convince Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican to be swayed by the arguments that Trump be removed.  The bar for misconduct in executive office, as opposed to the wheeling and dealing that keeps company with the occupant of that office, remains a high one indeed.

The school of thought favouring Pelosi – that the Democrats had to pursue the impeachment route – has force with the likes of Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect.  “Trump’s contempt for the rule of law was so flagrant that it would have been a dereliction of constitutional duty for the House Democrats to turn the other cheek.”  While Trump was not removed from office, “it had to be done, and could yet produce major benefits for the Democrats and the country.” Kuttner, it would seem, is no political strategist.

Keith E. Whittington of Princeton University is also of similar mind.  There were a host of “good reasons”, he claims in Lawfare, in pursuing an impeachment process despite falling at the final hurdle.  It constituted “a kind of formal censure” and “an effort to reassert important constitutional norms.”  For all that, Whittington makes a concession.  While an impeachment process might not be a failure because it ends in acquittal, one “that heightens political divisions without reinforcing the proper limits on conduct of government officials is not much of a success.”

Those divisions were laid bare in their partisanship.  The Republicans ensured minimal scrutiny in the trial process itself, including jettisoning any prospect for calling witnesses.  Further avenues of embarrassment were cut off.  It was a reminder that, however such processes are framed, impeachment is a political scrap rather than a sober judicial assessment.  The Democrats, despite their desperate attempts to make Russiagate swallow Trump, or the allegations regarding the withholding of funding to Ukraine as a quid quo pro for investigating the Bidens, have not been able to shift the ground.

Trump’s fantastically oily manner of conducting politics – an aping of business acumen and crassness – has left opponents wanting.  He slips, ducks and eventually turns the gun pointed at him against the opponent.  He makes sure it is armed, then fires.  The impeachment episode is now being loaded and launched as a means of acquittal and exoneration, while the Democrats are being accused of failed venality. We, claimed Trump “have that gorgeous word.  I never thought a word would sound so good – it’s called, ‘total acquittal.’”  Arithmetic is evidently not the president’s strong suit.

The ever demagogic Louis Dobb of Fox Business is also happily restocking the arsenal, having told his audience that the Senate had “acquitted President Trump of both charges fabricated by Congressional Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi and Adam Schiff, to carry out the most egregious and partisan attack against any president in our history – a man they knew to be innocent.”

The representative Republican position, and not just one held by them, was to be found in the views of the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  “Right now, this is a political loser for [the Democrats].  They initiated it.  They thought this was a great idea.”  In the “short term, it has been a colossal political mistake.”  Much reading of the tea leaves is bound to follow.