An Obamacare Repeal isn’t even feasible without having Something Better…The GOP has had years to work on their own better healthcare plan but have come up empty.  That’s a surefire sign they can’t find anything better.  They keep talking about more choice from free markets, but in reality that’s normally code for profiteering by the likes of big pharma & insurance companies.  So as much as conservatives salivate at the prospect of Obamacare repeal, their idea of a competitive marketplace would fail to do what most must be done, that is control escalating costs.  While the current system badly needs fixed, an Obamacare repeal is not in the cards without a viable replacement.  Based on the direction we’re seeing from other countries, the most likely replacement seems to be evolving towards some form of Medicare-for-all, which more commentary & articles on this are further down below.

Greatest Economy Ever according to Trump

We should be offended at such ridiculous & insensitive claims.  The greatest economy ever would not have roughly half the population struggling to get by.  Most new job creation would not be so low pay & dead end.  Nor would the best economy feature skyrocketing debt for both government & household budgets.  It also wouldn’t feature most of the gains going to the top as income inequality escalates, while shared prosperity, upward mobility & entrepreneurship remains on the decline.  And the greatest economy ever would not see the American Dream slipping away from a huge number of Americans.  Trump, politicians & the media should cease claiming what a strong economy we’re in.  The entire article from half-of-america-hasnt-recovered-from-the-recession is posted here, except for a couple disturbing graphs you can click on the link to see:

A decade after the financial crisis, the U.S. economy seems to be firing on all cylinders, with unemployment at a 50-year low and growth hitting its stride. But a deeper look reveals a more troubling picture: Between 2012 and 2015 — a period when the recovery seemed to be gaining speed — nearly half of all counties nationwide saw flat or declining growth, according to new government data. More broadly, the Commerce Department figures highlight a stark and worrisome reality: While a handful of places around the U.S. are thriving, most regions are barely trudging ahead. And that trend is creating a widening geographic gap between a relatively few prosperous areas, mostly urban oases, and the desert of stagnation that lies beyond.

“For many communities, what you’ve got is a lost decade of economic growth,” said John Lettieri, CEO of the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan think tank, adding that “the topline economy doesn’t match the local experiences.” The bottom third of U.S. counties actually saw their economies shrink. Gross domestic product in these places, whose ranks include St. Clair County, Missouri, and Macon County, Illinois, shrank by an average of 2.25 percent each year between 2013 and 2015. (GDP represents the sum total of all the goods and services produced in a location in a given year.) For another 20 percent of counties, growth averaged an anemic 0.6 percent a year during that period. By contrast, the few counties that did perform well economically saw spectacular growth. The top tenth expanded their economies by 11 percent every year between 2013 and 2015. For comparison, the nation’s overall GDP grew 1.8 percent in 2013, 2.5 percent the following year and 2.9 percent in 2015. Economists expect growth of around 3 percent this year.

It’s worth noting that the Commerce data represent the first time the Bureau of Economic Analysis has issued county-level data. So they should be considered preliminary. And local economies, because they’re often so small, can see large percentage shifts from one year to the next. Still, EIG has found a similar divergence in taking a more granular approach to measuring economic growth. Perhaps the clearest sign of the imbalance between have and have-not counties: Between 2007 and 2016, the U.S. added 3.7 million net new jobs, Lettieri said. But more than 90 percent of those were created in the richest 20 percent of ZIP codes.

Looking at individual employers shows the same story. Between 2007 and 2016, the country added about 55,000 businesses, according to Census data — 52,000 of them went to just five counties. The winners: the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens in New York; Los Angeles; Florida’s Miami-Dade; and Harris County, Texas (home to Houston). While the majority of densely populated counties added businesses, most counties with a population of less than 500,000 lost businesses from 2007 to 2016. Among the smallest counties (fewer than 100,000 people) only 1 in 5 added businesses over that time period. “At the root of this is a question of whether, from one generation to the next, people feel that the economy gives them a fair shot at the American Dream,” Lettieri said. “If you’re increasingly segregating the American population into places that are opportunity-rich and hard to get into… that divide between prosperous and distresses places, that threatens the idea of fundamental fairness to our system.”

Rural Economy

The frustration & desperation over the decline of rural economies are a big part of what gave Trump so much support out in the country.  But despite the need & urgency to restore small-town vitality, there’s still no remedies in sight, as ideas & options are in very short support.  And as for that great deal-making businessman rural communities were counting on to bring about MAGA, well, Trump has no better idea how to fix things than the man on the moon.  Check out these excerpts patched together from rural-america-trump-decline for an appreciation on the magnitude of the challenge:

The United States has grown by 75 million people since 1990, but this has mostly occurred in cities and suburbs. Rural areas have lost some 3 million people. Since the 1990s, problems such as crime and opioid abuse, once associated with urban areas, are increasingly rural phenomena. Rural communities once captured a greater share of the nation’s prosperity. Jobs and wages in small town America played catch-up with big cities until the mid 1980s. During the economic recovery of 1992 to 1996, 135,000 new businesses were started in small counties, a third of the nation’s total. Employment in small counties shot up by 2.5 million, or 16 percent, twice the pace experienced in counties with million-plus populations. These days, economic growth bypasses rural economies. In the first four years of the recovery after the 2008 recession, counties with fewer than 100,000 people lost 17,500 businesses, according to the Economic Innovation Group. By contrast, counties with more than 1 million residents added, altogether, 99,000 firms. By 2017, the largest metropolitan areas had almost 10 percent more jobs than they did at the start of the financial crisis. Rural areas still had fewer. The Economic Innovation Group measures “distress” as a combination of data ranging from joblessness and poverty to abandoned homes and educational attainment. Since the 1990s, there has been an “intensifying ruralization of distress,” said John Lettieri, the group’s president.

I’ve lived most of my life in big cities. I don’t pretend to understand what it’s like to live in a small town or on a family farm, or how it feels when all the jobs in a community seem to be fading away. I do spend a lot of time thinking about how the economic changes of the last several decades have undercut many American workers. One thing seems clear to me: nobody — not experts or policymakers or people in these communities — seems to know quite how to pick rural America up. States, municipalities and the federal government have spent billions to draw jobs and prosperity to stagnant rural areas. But they haven’t yet figured out how to hitch this vast swath of the country to the tech-heavy economy that is flourishing in America’s cities. There are 1,888 counties in America in which more than half the population is rural, according to the Census Bureau, and they stretch from coast to coast. One thing seems clear to me: nobody — not experts or policymakers or people in these communities — seems to know quite how to pick rural America up. States, municipalities and the federal government have spent billions to draw jobs and prosperity to stagnant rural areas. But they haven’t yet figured out how to hitch this vast swath of the country to the tech-heavy economy that is flourishing in America’s cities. There are 1,888 counties in America in which more than half the population is rural, according to the Census Bureau, and they stretch from coast to coast.

Overall, manufacturing employs about one in eight workers in the country’s 704 entirely rural counties. That’s more than agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining combined and second only to education, health care and social assistance, which includes teachers, doctors, nurses and social service counselors. Most of those jobs are government funded. But factory jobs can no longer keep small-town America afloat. Even after a robust eight-year growth spell, there are fewer than 13 million workers in manufacturing across the entire economy. Robots and workers in China put together most of the manufactured goods that Americans buy, and the high-tech industries powering the economy today don’t have much need for the cheap labor that rural communities contributed to America’s industrial past. They mostly need highly educated workers. They find those most easily in big cities, not in small towns. What to do? Since the presidential election in 2016, when small town voters enthusiastically endorsed the populist campaign of President Trump, policymakers and academics have thrown themselves at understanding the economic backdrop to their frustrations. They have come up with no shortage of proposals for how to turn rural America around, from offering a tax credit for employers that hire workers in distressed communities to designing investment funds to draw venture capital into rural areas. In a report published in November, Mark Muro, William Galston and Clara Hendrickson of the Brookings Institution laid out a portfolio of ideas to rescue the substantial swath of the country that they identify as “left behind.” They identify critical shortages bedeviling declining communities: workers with digital skills, broadband connections, capital. And they have plans to address them: I.T. training and education initiatives, regulatory changes to boost lending to small businesses, incentives to invest in broadband.

Sound as these ideas may be, however, even the authors concede that they may not be up to the task. “I don’t know if these ideas are going to work,” Mr. Galston acknowledged when I pressed him on the issue. “But it is worth making the effort.” This is the inescapable reality of agglomeration, one of the most powerful forces shaping the American economy over the last three decades. Innovative companies choose to locate where other successful, innovative companies are. That’s where they can find lots of highly skilled workers. The more densely packed these pools of talent are, the more workers can learn from each other and the more productive they become. This dynamic feeds on itself, drawing more high-tech firms and highly skilled workers to where they already are. “We have a spatial reorganization of the economy,” said Mr. Muro. “We have an archipelago of superstars in an ocean of low-productivity sectors.” The United States is still left with 50 to 55 million people living in rural communities that no longer have much to offer them economically. What if nothing really works? Is there really no option but to do nothing and, as some have suggested, return depopulated parts of rural America to the bison? Instead of so-called place-based policies to revitalize small towns, why not help their residents take advantage of opportunities where the opportunities are? Geographic mobility hit a historical low in 2017, when only 11 percent of Americans picked up shop and moved — half the rate of 1951. One of the key reasons is that housing in the prosperous cities that offer the most opportunities has become too expensive.

“If you put a tech company in a place like rural Indiana, it will be vastly less productive than if you put it in a tech cluster,” Mr. Moretti said. “The effect is quite large.” Still, there are compelling reasons to try to help rural economies rebound. Even if moving people might prove more efficient on paper than restoring places, many people — especially older people and the family members who care for them — may choose to remain in rural areas. What’s more, the costs of rural poverty are looming over American society. Think of the opioid addiction taking over rural America, of the spike in crime, of the wasted human resources in places where only a third of adults hold a job. And if today’s polarized politics are noxious, what might they look like in a country perpetually divided between diverse, prosperous liberal cities and a largely white rural America in decline? As Mr. Galston warned: “Think through the political consequences of saying to a substantial portion of Americans, which is even more substantial in political terms, ‘We think you’re toast.’ ” The distress of 50 million Americans should concern everyone. Powerful economic forces are arrayed against rural America and, so far, efforts to turn it around have failed. Not every small town can be a tech hub, nor should it be. But that can’t be the only answer.

Great Economy?  Sounds like an Excuse for DC Politicians to Rest on Their Laurels

Big corporations hold all the leverage, especially as they keep automating away from employees: workers-rights-bosses-tech-amazon-profits-staff.  We must find a way to help displaced workers find productive jobs, irrespective of whether those new jobs are created in the private or public sector, as long as those occupations provide real value to society.  The perils & flaws of modern-day capitalism are starting to be played out more on TV shows: tv-club-superstore-lodge-49, helping it to more vividly enter the public consciousness.  The old comedy show Laverne & Shirley had plots on the plight of workers (RIP Laverne).  I don’t advocate a type of socialism, but that’s exactly what we might be stuck with if we can’t fix capitalism.  The first step in ultimately solving a challenge is to first recognize the problem, so here at The VORACS we keep sounding the alarms.

Whatever Trump policies are trying to do with trade wars, his tax cut & ballooning deficits, it looks like the stock market is no longer impressed: this-is-the-worst-start-to-a-december-for-the-stock-market-since-the-great-depression.  So we’re in a market correction with the R-word recently entering the lexicon of economists.  We’ve been calling out the folly of Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy in every part 3 for a year now.  Here, we do it again by posting this entire article from the-gop-tax-bill-is-creating-jobs-just-not-in-the-u-s:

We should have told them to be more specific. When President Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress called their massive tax overhaul last year the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” most of us assumed the jobs would be in the United States. Now we know better. Yes, unemployment in this country is low, but there’s no evidence it’s because of last year’s GOP tax cuts. More likely it’s simply a continuation of an eight-year trend of steady job growth that began under President Obama. On the other hand, we can reasonably connect specific losses in U.S. employment to the Trump-GOP tax law. For instance, last summer General Motors decided to build its Chevrolet Blazer in Mexico rather than the United States. Then this November, it announced plans to close five North American assembly plants and lay off nearly 15,000 workers in states like Ohio, Michigan, and Maryland. The Republican tax law encourages that kind outsourcing because it charges corporations just half the tax rate on foreign profits that it charges on domestic earnings. It’s hard to imagine a stronger lure for corporations to pack up their plant and equipment and ship them offshore. But you don’t have to imagine, because it’s right there in another part of the law: The more U.S. corporations shift factories and other sources of production overseas, the lower the U.S. taxes are on their foreign profits. It’s almost as if the GOP law was designed to promote outsourcing. It certainly isn’t doing much for American workers, despite all the hype and promises from President Trump and other Republicans. Trump claimed his giant corporate tax cut would result in employers giving every working family a $4,000 raise.

Workers are still waiting. Almost a year after the law was enacted, only 4 percent of them have gotten a raise or even a one-time bonus tied to the tax cuts. Where the tax-cut money is really going — as many of us predicted — is into the bank accounts of CEOs and wealthy shareholders. Since Trump’s tax cuts, corporations have announced 117 times more in stock buybacks ($832 billion) than they’ve spent on worker pay hikes ($7 billion). Buybacks pump up the price of shares, further enriching stockholders — who are overwhelmingly among America’s wealthy elite. GM is a perfect example. It got a tax cut this year of over $150 million, with more to come in future years. That’s on top of a one-time tax cut probably worth hundreds of millions on the $6.5 billion in profits it stashed offshore. GM used that money to buy back $100 million of its own shares. It gave nothing to its workers — unless you count pink slips. And it will undoubtedly continue to lavish its top executives with huge pay packages, like the $22 million in total compensation chief executive Mary Barra received last year. That’s almost 300 times more than the average GM employee makes. All this demonstrates a simple truth: Tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations help the wealthy and corporations, not American workers. In fact, those high-end tax giveaways wind up hurting working families and their communities. Damage doesn’t just come from outsourcing and layoffs. The Republican tax law will eventually cost $1.9 trillion. That digs a deep debt hole GOP leaders have already admitted they plan to fill with money taken from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other services the American people rely on. If we really want to help the laid-off GM workers and towns facing empty factories, we need to reverse the tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. We also need to stop the offshoring of American jobs by passing the “No Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Act” now before Congress. The next time Republicans claim a tax cut slanted towards the wealthy will create jobs, we’ll make sure to ask: Where?

Young & Old alike Struggling with their Finances

For the young people, college debt has exploded: student-loan-debt-sets-record-doubling-since-recession.  For folks like me more long-in-the-tooth, programs people count on for a secure retirement are desperately underfunded, as entitlements like Medicare & Social Security have future obligations our country couldn’t possibly afford.  On top of that as seen in excerpts from central-states-pension-fund-millions-risk-cuts, it reveals some pension plans are also in dire condition:

A multibillion dollar pension shortfall is ready to shake up enough lives to pack a string of stadiums hosting the Super Bowl. But most people on the street aren’t talking about the looming crisis, unless they’re worried about seeing their own pension check slashed. Those living in fear include workers and retirees connected to the Central States Pension Plan. The word pension used to connote a sense of security. In the wake of the Great Recession and major shifts in many industries, though, many pensions are in jeopardy.  What’s worse: The crisis is so far-reaching that it could bring down one of the very safety nets put in place to protect unionized workers covered by troubled multiemployer pension plans. W. Thomas Reeder, director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., said the federal agency created by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to protect pension benefits currently is looking at $56.2 billion in liabilities connected to multiemployer pension plans but only $2.3 billion in assets. It’s nearly a $54-billion shortfall, as of Sept. 30. “We will be out of business without a change in the law by 2025,” Reeder told journalists attending a National Press Foundation fellowship that focused on pensions in Washington, D.C., in early December. “This is an untenable situation.”

Dozens of pension plans that cover unionized truck drivers, painters, bricklayers, construction workers, bakery workers, retail workers, newspaper workers, mine workers and others are headed for collapse. A Nov. 30 deadline for putting a bipartisan package on the table has come and gone. The Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans failed to reach a consensus on how to solve the highly-complex, costly crisis. Work toward a solution continues. As many as 121 multiemployer pension plans, covering about 1.3 million participants, remain severely underfunded and are expected to fail within 20 years, according to a recent Cheiron analysis. Those plans are viewed as being in “critical and declining” status. If the PBGC back stop collapses, experts warn that retirees in the troubled plans one day might only get 10 cents on the dollar. So what was promised as a $25,000 annual pension might turn into just $2,500 in a year. The three largest underfunded multiemployer pension plans are: the Central States Southeast & Southwest Areas Pension Fund, the New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund and the Bakery and Confectionery Union and Industry International Pension Fund, according to the latest data from Cheiron, an actuarial consulting firm. 

Refugees & Immigration

Look at the escalating crisis of desperate refugees.  Dealing with this ongoing tragedy would require consensus by the international community to share in providing adequate food, water & a place to stay, including a buy-in from an American President who has yet to show an ounce of sympathy: immigration-refugees-global-crisis-nation-without-homes.  Immigration can actually be a positive if dealt with correctly.  The opening to want-more-us-jobs-kill-our-restrictive-immigration-policies is posted here, & you can click on the link to see an explanation for each of the Four Facts listed below:

The official unemployment rate is extremely low right now, but it is a misleading statistic because it includes part-time and temporary workers, along with those who have stopped looking. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes data on the employment rate, which tells a different story. The employment rate measures the percentage of the working age population that is employed. It peaked at 65 percent right around the turn of the millennium, plunged drastically during the Great Recession, and has crept back up to about 61 percent today. That 4 percent difference represents millions of people who could be working but aren’t. We desperately need more new jobs, yet we are pursuing immigration policies that will make the situation even worse.

Fact One: Our Country is Experiencing a Prolonged Decline in the Rate of Entrepreneurship.

Fact Two: New Businesses Create Virtually All Net New Jobs

Fact Three:  Millennials Are Not Rising to the Entrepreneurship Challenge

Fact Four: Immigrants are Very Entrepreneurial

In 2019, which is most likely to disintegrate, the ACA or the GOP?

Don’t think a Texas judge’s ruling means an Obamacare repeal is imminent.  So be neither celebratory nor alarmed about the prospect for Obamacare repeal, since it’s not likely to happen.  Look for an appellate court or even the highest court to shoot down that ruling.  The Dems just had a blue wave election in the House largely because of the provisions & protections in the Obamacare law, as health care was decidedly a winning narrative for them.  And yes, let me emphasize again that ruling by a radical-right Texas judge probably won’t fly while going through the appeals process & perhaps ending up in the Supreme Court.  Despite Trump cheering that decision, many GOP’ers in Congress expect & hope that decision will get struck down, since it was based on the judge’s flawed judgement & gives off terrible optics to their constituents, since plenty of voters will be hopping mad when their health insurance is taken away or they’re denied coverage for preexisting conditions.

The GOP has demanded repeal & replace for years, but we can’t repeal till we have something better to replace it with.  And the GOP has had years to agree on something better, so the fact they haven’t shows they can’t devise anything better.  Along the way they’ve poked holes in the original Obamacare to make it worse.  Failure to craft better healthcare coverage or to fix Obamacare is leading us straight down a path to a single-payer system.  Our healthcare costs are generally at least double what they are in other countries, with many of those nations having successfully converted over to some version of universal government healthcare.  Since we seem utterly incapable of finding something better, I’m fine with copying what’s working well in other countries.  So if we do ever see an Obamacare repeal, in all likelihood it would be due to crafting a better, more complete government plan.  And if done right, it could actually come in more affordable than the confusing hodgepodge system we have now.

The challenge of switching over would be daunting since we’d need to convert all those private plans over to public, plus we’d be battling against enormous corporate interests, but a streamlined & well-crafted public system might be the only feasible way to contain costs.  America would finally be in a position to enforce cost controls while eliminating the gravy train where the insurance & pharmaceutical industries are siphoning huge profits out of the current system.  The coverage & overall medical care might decline somewhat, but we should see that as a trade-off for not bankrupting our country.  Healthcare coverage would likely evolve into a two-tiered system with universal coverage being a basic plan, plus have options available for private individuals or companies as a perk to their employees, offering supplemental or Cadillac plans above & beyond the government coverage.  Except for the top 3 live links, the other articles below you could do a search if you’d like, since there’s lots of links here that would far exceed our limits on live links:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-court/trump-hails-judges-ruling-against-obamacare-as-great-idUSKBN1OE0OQ

https://www.apnews.com/5d727a66c8b54228b9e550072b9687a9_ruling-to-strike-down-health-law-puts-gop-in-quandary

http://time.com/5480813/trump-congress-replacement-obamacare/

theguardian/judge-obamacare-healthcare-reed-oconnor

politico/republicans-obamacare-ruling

politico/why-trump-still-needs-obamacare

thedailybeast/obamacare-isnt-dead-three-reasons-the-texas-case-will-be-overturned

businessinsider/top-democrats-react-to-obamacare-ruling-unconstitutional

slate/obamacare-ruling-texas-john-roberts-scotus

usatoday/obama-responds-obamacare-ruling

usatoday/obamacare-ruling-latest-republican-boost-government-health-care

usatoday/medicare-all-house-democrats-best-health-care-play

thehill/what-cutting-protections-for-pre-existing-conditions-means-for-people-with

thehill/republicans-distance-themselves-from-obamacare-ruling

thehill/dem-ags-begin-process-of-appealing-court-ruling-that-struck-down-obamacare

nytimes/judge-obamacare-reed-oconnor

nytimes/republican-apparatchiks-deep-state

nytimes/obamacare-ruling-unconstitutional-affordable-care-act

washingtonpost/health-care-law-ruling-puts-republicans-on-the-defensive-after-campaign-promises

washingtonpost/with-aca-peril-republicans-get-show-if-they-really-want-protect-people-with-preexisting-conditions

washingtonpost/latest-aca-ruling-is-raw-judicial-activism-impossible-defend

washingtonpost/legal-experts-rip-judges-rationale-for-declaring-obamacare-law-invalid

washingtonpost/republicans-relentless-attempts-to-undermine-obamacare-escalate-american-anxiety

washingtonpost/controversial-ruling-on-health-care-law-could-face-a-skeptical-supreme-court–if-it-gets-there

esquire/affordable-care-act-federal-lawsuit-texas-obamacare

theatlantic/obamacare-remains-despite-judges-ruling-texas

vox/medicare-for-all-bernie-sanders-house-democrats-filibuster-taxes

vox/medicare-for-all-single-payer-pros-cons-work-health-insurance

nymag/judge-overturns-obamacare-but-gop-should-hold-its-applause

nymag/conservatives-criticize-an-judges-ruling-on-obamacare

salon/republicans-in-congress-arent-cheering-big-win-in-obamacare-repeal-lawsuit

thinkprogress/even-conservatives-shocked-at-wrong-anti-obamacare-ruling

thinkprogress/even-the-cato-institute-thinks-that-republican-judge-who-struck-down-obamacare-was-wrong

thinkprogress/no-republican-backup-plan-for-obamacare-lawsuit

Good Riddance to GOP House

As their House leadership comes to an ignominious end, the time the GOP had the House majority was basically a big waste of time.  As a distraction away from the real scandals behind Russiagate, interviewing Comey yesterday (see part 2) could signal their last hurrah of silly interrogations.  Those GOP questioners have disgraced themselves yet again.  Only inside the echo’s hermetically-sealed bubble would this yawner of a story questioning Comey about crazy conspiracies get much play.  GOP House committees have gone down the rabbit holes of various investigations without much evidence & came up empty.  And along the way this GOP House has been adamant in providing cover for a criminalized president.

Hillary has been the most investigated politician in American history, but no crimes were ever found & the grounds for the inquiries were mere hearsay.  But she has been so demonized inside the echo-bubble for more than 25 years, the GOP likes dredging up any phony accusations just for the optics, since nobody energizes their base more than her.  Like Pavlov’s dogs who were trained for anticipatory physical conditioning (drool coming out of their mouths) based on a stimulus, so has the GOP base been trained for a visceral reaction of rage & hatred (smoke coming out of their ears) at the mere mention of Hillary’s name.  They just can’t give her up!  Catch these excerpts pulled from the-gop-majoritys-last-words-but-her-emails:

Republicans, in the waning hours of their eight-year reign in the House, are using this precious time to do what they love best: investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails. The House Oversight Committee had one last item on this year’s calendar — a hearing Thursday on the Clinton Foundation. But it didn’t stop there! Republicans and their witnesses used the hearing to reprise their greatest hits: her email server, Benghazi, George Soros, Sidney Blumenthal, Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, James B. Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, IRS targeting the tea party, Uranium One and a QAnon conspiracy about the Justice Department swooping into Little Rock to seize Clinton documents. Even the lock-her-up Trump administration had tired of these proceedings. The Justice Department — under the command of Trump loyalist and former hot-tub promoter Matthew G. Whitaker — refused to testify (leading one witness to suggest the administration had joined the cover up), and the IRS also sent regrets. Instead, Republicans summoned conspiracy theorists, including “investigators” poised to make money as tipsters if the IRS brings a Clinton Foundation case. But even these witnesses refused to provide documents supporting their dubious claims.

Mueller Trusted Far More Than Trump except in Crazy Echo-Land

Some interesting polling lately: fox-news-poll-only-38-percent-of-americans-would-vote-to-re-elect-donald-trump.  And here’s another one: what-americas-thinking/60-percent-say-it-is-likely-muellers-probe-will-uncover-crimes.  The people know Mueller must not be messed with: a-month-after-sessions-fired-poll-suggests-people-want-mueller-probe-protected.  There’s also a recent NBC/WSJ poll very concerning for Trump, but it’s only common sense the American people would trust the Mueller probe over Trump.  Nearly 2/3 believe Trump is basically lying about Russiagate, which should actually be much higher except for 70% of the GOP base somehow thinking the prez is telling the truth about the Russia probe.  Yes, that’s right, the poll said 70%.  What’s wrong with those people!!!: ap-fact-check-trumps-distorted-reality-in-expanding-probes.

But hey, that gives me a great idea, call it a lifetime fantasy.  So in a hypothetical example, if Fox fake news invited me on one of their evening shows wearing a MAGA cap like any good Trump supporter should, & I started by reciting some of the same recognized/approved echo talking points praising Trump, it’s quite possible I could then create a lifelong dream as a football fan.  After establishing my pro-Trump cred with flowery rhetoric & just by being there on a sycophant Fox evening show, I could then proceed to tell all those viewers out there that my team, the Cleveland Browns, have won more Super Bowls than the Patriots, Steelers & Cowboys combined!  And maybe 70% of that audience would believe me!  Plus the word could spread, since the craziest conspiracies are often repeated by the rest of the echo & even the President himself.

So even though it’s an event that never happened & may never happen, I might be able to create this simulated reality in the minds of that echo-loyal Trumpeter audience, from which I’d be bursting with pride that 70% of roughly 1/3 of the overall population would come to think my team had won the Super Bowl over a dozen times!  That same viewership that watches Fox in the evenings with their blank stares at their TV screens also think Trump isn’t lying, so I figure they can be made to believe most anything.  See the description of those recent poll results posted here from donald-trump-russia-probe-poll:

The majority of Americans don’t believe President Donald Trump has been truthful about Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to a new poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal. The poll, which interviewed 900 adults on their opinions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Trump’s possible collusion with Russian authorities, was dated for December 9-12. The poll asked if Trump “has been honest & trustworthy” regarding Mueller’s probe, to which 62 percent replied they “somewhat/strongly disagree” the president has been honest compared to a 34 percent who believed Trump is telling the truth. Ninety-four percent of Democrats said Trump has been untruthful while 64 percent of Independents and 24 percent of Republicans felt the same. Meanwhile, 70 percent of Republicans, 20 percent of Independents and 5 percent of Democrats fell into the 34 percentile of those who actually believe Trump is telling the truth about his involvement with Russian interference. The polls depicted an increase in uncertainty over Trump’s honesty compared to August when 56 percent of adults disagreed Trump is being honest about the investigation.

The poll also revealed a growing number of Americans are feeling doubtful about Trump’s overall presidency due to the probe. Fifty percent of Americans said the investigation has given them “major,” “fairly major” or “just some” doubts about Trump’s ability as a sitting president while 44 percent said the probe hasn’t given them more doubts. Forty-six percent of respondents say the many convictions and guilty pleas of those associated with Trump’s 2016 campaign suggest the president’s possible wrongdoings. Twenty-three percent believed the convictions and guilty pleas were limited to those specifically indicted by Mueller so far while 28 percent said they don’t know enough about the indictments to form an opinion. Thirty-three people and three companies, so far, have either been indicted or entered guilty pleas in their connection to Russia’s influence in the election, including, most recently, Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. In regards to whether or not Mueller’s probe on the matter should end, only 34 percent believed it should while 45 percent said the investigation should continue.

Thoughtful Conservatism

When the cult of Trumpism is relegated to the dustbin of history, the sooner the better, we’d better have a logical/pragmatic form of conservatism ready to step into the void.  This is an ongoing discussion we need to keep brainstorming ideas as seen inside niskanen-center-future-republican-party-sane-libertarian.  Rubin offers wise thoughts on that topic as posted in this beginning to what-would-responsible-center-right-party-do:

The descent of the Republican Party into the nativist, know-nothing party of President Trump has taken the GOP into a political cul-de-sac and moral wasteland. It can appeal only to an aging sliver of a shrinking part of America (rural), so it tries to stave off extinction by suppressing nonwhite voting. This is not a recipe for success. It cannot run on its actual agenda (tax cuts for the rich, repealing all of Obamacare), so it must disguise its agenda and instead resort to fear-mongering and xenophobia. That, too, is not a recipe for success. It advertises itself as the “law and order” party but dismisses violations of federal laws as no big deal and smears law enforcement. That’s also not a recipe for success. The question to date among many thinking men and women on the right has been what party they can find to reflect their conservative views. But frankly, the right is no longer conservative but reactionary, nor is it interested in policy innovation or intellectual debate.

The better question then is whether the right as it has come to be known — distinguished by its hostility to immigrants, indifference to wealth inequality, embrace of a small-government ideology (for which there is no real constituency) and a unilateralist (either as bully or victim) foreign policy — can or should survive. If not, what’s the alternative to the left-wing infatuation with super-centralized government, anti-capitalism and retrenchment? The suggestion I’ve put forth over the past few years envisions a coalition from center-left to center-right that favors market economics with a robust safety net; pro-work and pro-economic mobility domestic policies (e.g. expansion of the earned-income tax credit, investment in human capital); robust legal immigration and free trade with ample cushion for those displaced by creative destruction; ethics reform (including an end to cronyism); a values-based foreign policy that recognizes American leadership is necessary to our own prosperity and security; reinforcement of democratic institutions; and emphasis on civic literacy and civic virtue.

 

Betting Odds

I’m not a bettor, but if I were, I’d have been betting all along the prez would be impeached &/or resign.  With the headlines lately reporting on Trump’s growing legal woes, the odds have really shot up as seen in this posting from trump-impeachment-odds-rising-on-the-betting-markets-now-rated-more-likely-than-not-to-be-impeached.  And no wonder, since most everything connected to Trump’s life are being investigated with good cause (see part 1):

It was a bad week for the Trump administration, as court filings exposed a number of legal liabilities for the President, and those liabilities have not gone unnoticed on the betting markets, where the odds have soared in favor of Trump’s impeachment. The latest odds offered by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power give Trump’s impeachment before the end of his first term 4/5 odds or close to 56 percent. The odds offered for Trump to not be impeached are even money. The political prediction market PredictIt, meanwhile, saw the price of Trump’s first term impeachment increase to 1.48:1, according to Newsweek. Federal prosecutors have directly linked President Trump to campaign finance felonies related to hush money payments made to women the President had affairs with prior to the 2016 election. President Trump’s longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, admitted in his plea deal with prosecutors to engineering the payments on behalf of the President, and later in the week the publisher of the National Enquirer also implicated President Trump by admitting to laundering the payment money through their publication. Additionally, the plea deal of Russian spy Maria Butina has directly implicated President Trump in alleged collusion with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.

To make matters worse, the impending Democratic majority in the House of Representatives promises to create a hostile political environment for President Trump, as Democratic lawmakers are promising a Congressional investigation into a number of allegations against him. President Trump’s Republican supporters are beginning to show cracks in the base and that President Trump has told people close to him that he is “alarmed by the prospect” of impeachment, according to NBC News. “Am I concerned that the president might be involved in a crime? Of course,” Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told reporters Tuesday. “If someone has violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would to any other citizen in this country, and obviously if you’re in a position of great authority like the presidency that would be the case,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio said his decision on how Congress should respond to federal investigators’ final findings on the payments “will not be a political decision, it’ll be the fact that we are a nation of laws and no one in this country no matter who you are is above it.”

Christmas Might Give Us a Much-Needed Break from Politics

Catch The VORACS latest posting again this Friday which will likely be the day of our last message through the holidays into January (barring a major Russiagate headline).  That was also to be government shutdown day, which will likely be averted since the public doesn’t want it: poll-americans-blame-trump-gop-shutdown-over-wall-dispute, plus the GOP Congress don’t want a shutdown & Trump wants to head to Mar-a-Lago to play golf.  With all the stress & uncertainty surrounding our politics these days, sometimes we should take the time to sit back & hear a soothing/peaceful song.  This Christmas song has gotten a tremendous amount of play on our local radio stations, but it is beautiful, so today The VORACS is also giving it some play:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cP26ndrmtg