Trumpcare, Ryancare, Trashcare: While the GOP celebrates its found money, the poor will get sicker and die

With the AHCA, the Republicans have put a price tag on the lives of America’s working class: $300 billion

Trumpcare, Ryancare, Trashcare: While the GOP celebrates its found money, the poor will get sicker and die
(Credit: AP/Susan Walsh)

Trumpcare, Ryancare, Trashcare — whatever you want to call it, the American Health Care Act is nothing more than a cheap stab at Barack Obama, a petty attempt on the part of grudge-holding Republicans, including President Donald Trump, to try to diminish Obama’s legacy. They can try, but that will be impossible — Trump’s follow-up act has been so bad so far that he’s making George W. Bush look practically Lincoln-esque. But let’s set legacies and agendas aside for now and focus on health care.

“We have come up with a solution that’s really, really, I think, very good,” Donald Trump has said. “It’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

I’m not a president or a billionaire. I could never afford the kind of routine checkups that Trump has access to from award-winning physicians with platinum stethoscopes and solid gold scalpels — or even a state-of-the-art Viking fridge stocked with spare teenage hearts and kidneys, all plump and ready to be inserted when Trump’s conk out. He’ll probably live to be 360 years old as a result. Most of us don’t have that experience, and the president, just like the congresspeople and senators who are aimlessly playing with the lives of their constituents by threatening to kill Obamacare, is taken care of. They have amazing health care coverage that we, the taxpayers, fund. Strangely, that never makes it into the conversation.

Is Obamacare perfect? Absolutely not. But it has already saved the lives of millions of people. People who would have never voted for Obama are calling him a hero, even as some die-hard right-wingers praise the Affordable Care Act for saving their loved ones, not realizing that it’s the same as Obamacare.

Trump loves his catchphrase, “Make America great again.” Obviously he doesn’t understand that “great” is a process that we must constantly work toward. Greatness is edited, nurtured and achieved after recognizing what works and what doesn’t. Scrapping Obamacare and replacing it with a trash plan that will leave millions of people who were born without the luxury of being Trump-level rich uninsured is not making anything great. It’s evil. According to the CBO analysis, the AHCA would “reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the coming decade and increase the number of people who are uninsured by 24 million in 2026 relative to current law.” And every Republican is running to the cable news networks, bragging about saving $300 billion. What does that mean to the person the Wall Street Journal described, a 62-year-old person who makes $18,000 a year who will now face premiums of up to $20,000?

Imagine a sickly elderly woman running home from work to her family to share with pride that the government just saved $300 billion. There is nothing more important than that to the government, even if it means that you’re broke, your granddaughter is pregnant because she couldn’t get birth control, and your grandson overdosed and died because he couldn’t be treated for his prescription drug addiction, which he developed to self-medicate his depression over the factory jobs that Trump promised never coming. We should all celebrate because the government saved $300 billion? That’s $300 billion that regular people will never touch.

People will not be treated for their illnesses. Many will suffer, and some will die. But at least the GOP beat Obama!

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-sellers “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America” and “The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir.”

US ruling elite moves to repeal the 1960s


14 March 2017

The repeal of Obamacare, which began last week with the introduction of legislation drafted by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, working in conjunction with the Trump administration, has become the vehicle for a much wider program of social reaction.

The new legislation, which will cut off health coverage for 24 million people, will essentially put an end to Medicaid, one of the major social reforms of the 1960s, a program that has funded health care for tens of millions of poor, blind or otherwise disabled people, as well as nursing home care for the low-income elderly. It sets the stage, as Ryan has indicated, for even more sweeping legislation that will undermine and eventually destroy Medicare, which has provided health coverage for most elderly people in the United States for more than 50 years.

The major social gains of the 1960s–the last period of significant social reform in American history–are in the final stages of liquidation. This is the culmination of a protracted historical process that began almost as soon as the American ruling elite made its decision, driven by the breakdown of the post-World War II economic boom, to shift from policies of relative class compromise to ruthless class warfare. The initial steps were taken as long ago as the Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter (1977-81), which began to curb social welfare spending and targeted striking coal miners for government intervention under the Taft-Hartley Law.

The attacks were accelerated greatly under Republican Ronald Reagan, who smashed the PATCO air traffic controllers strike, giving the green light for a decade of corporate union-busting and wage-cutting, and slashed federal social spending to fuel a record military buildup. Reagan set the pace for further attacks on the programs established in the 1960s and even in the 1930s, from Clinton’s abolition of Aid to Families with Dependent Children to Bush’s targeting of aid to public education with his “No Child Left Behind” legislation, co-authored by Democrat Edward Kennedy, and the first steps towards the privatization of Medicare.

The Obama administration did not mark a reversal of this decades-long process, but rather its intensification. Obamacare was not an expansion of the welfare state, as its apologists claimed, but a reactionary effort to shift the cost of health care from employers and the government to working people. The all-out support of the Democrats for this legislation, worked out in collaboration with the insurance industry and the drug monopolies, testifies to the rightward evolution of the Democratic Party over the past 40 years.

The eight years of the Obama administration–begun with promises of “hope” and “change” and filled instead with endless war, attacks on jobs and living standards, and the steady erosion of social services such as education and health care–created the conditions for the Republican takeover of Congress and finally the victory of Donald Trump.

The ideologues of capitalism claim that the “free market” will work wonders if only the restraints placed upon its operations by past social reforms are removed. These “restraints” include every social benefit won through the struggles of the working class over more than a century. Now, every one of Great Society liberalism’s “big four,” as one historian described the laws enacted in a six-month period from April to October 1965, is targeted for destruction.

The Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965: This legislation provided the first extensive federal support for local public schools, which had become politically possible following the legal abolition of segregated public schools in the South. Funds were allocated to improve public schools in poor communities, expand libraries and take the first steps in what became known as “special education.” The law established the pre-school program Head Start as a permanent federal program.

Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa has introduced legislation that would rescind the Elementary and Secondary Act and bar the Department of Education from funding any educational program except state-controlled vouchers that could be used for charter or religious schools or for home schooling.

Medicare and Medicaid, established through the Social Security Act of 1965: This bill for the first time provided government-backed health insurance for those over 65, half of whom had no coverage in 1965. Medicare covered hospital care (Part A) and medical and nursing fees (Part B), but did not pay for vision, dental or prescription drugs. Medicaid covered the poorest sections of working people, including children, the disabled and the blind, as well as long-term nursing home care for the poorest elderly.

The Obamacare repeal legislation would put an end to Medicaid as an entitlement program beginning in 2020, when grants to the states would be capped, forcing them to ration care to the poor and disabled. Medicare was already significantly undermined through Obamacare itself, which cut $700 billion in reimbursements over 10 years, and the repeal legislation will set the stage for even larger cuts, based on Ryan’s plan to convert the program from an entitlement to a voucher program.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most radical democratic measure enacted by a US Congress since post-Civil War Reconstruction. It targeted those states, mainly in the Deep South, where denial of the franchise to minorities was widespread. Before its passage, few blacks were allowed to register and vote in southern states from Texas to Virginia. Afterwards, voter participation among African-Americans rose sharply, as the federal Justice Department continued to oversee state electoral policies to block any efforts to discriminate.

The US Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act by a 5-4 decision in 2013 in Shelby vs. Holder, ruling that the targeting of the southern states for federal intervention could no longer be justified, despite repeated renewal and extension of the law by Congress, most recently in 2006. This decision was part of a wider effort led by Republicans in state after state to enact voter ID laws and other measures whose purpose was to resurrect discriminatory practices against minority and poor voters.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act after its leading Senate and House sponsors, abolished longstanding restrictions on immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and ended the preference for immigrants from Northern and Western Europe over those from Southern and Eastern Europe. It also allowed unlimited immigration of family members of US citizens and residents, encouraging the growth of immigrant communities.

Trump’s travel ban on visitors from six majority Muslim countries directly violates the 1965 law, which prohibits the use of national origin as a test for restricting immigration. His executive orders on immigration as well as the proposed wall along the US-Mexico border represent an effort to turn the clock back to the period of the exclusion laws that barred Asian immigrants and the bracero program that allowed Mexican immigrants only as semi-slave labor in the fields.

There are other reforms of the 1960s, from the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities, to the Clean Water Act and dozens of other anti-pollution laws, which led ultimately to the creation of the Environmental Protection Administration. All these are under attack by the Trump administration and the Republican Congress.

The Democratic Party has collaborated in one attack after another on the social reforms with which it was once identified. The Democrats have spearheaded the attacks on public education, introduced major cuts in Medicare funding as part of Obamacare, and did not lift a finger to restore enforcement after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. They oppose Trump, not in defense of social services, but on behalf of sections of Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus, attacking the new administration over its supposed softness towards Russia.

Even in the 1960s, Democratic Party liberalism was not a challenge to capitalism, but rather an effort, at the height of the post-World War II economic boom, to make American capitalism more palatable to the masses, and therefore safer for the capitalists, under conditions of growing mass struggles over civil rights, against the Vietnam War, and for better wages and working conditions. The measures of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” were far less ambitious than the welfare states built up in Western Europe during the same period.

As historian James T. Patterson wrote of that period: “The Great Society programs were… quintessentially liberal, not radical. Except in the area of race relations–a major exception–they made no serious effort to challenge the power of established groups, including large corporations. In no way did they seriously confront socio-economic inequality or seek to redistribute wealth.”

Today, under conditions of the protracted historical decline of American capitalism, exacerbated by the impact of the 2008 financial crash and the massive transfer of wealth from working people to bail out Wall Street, no section of the American ruling class can or will defend any of the social gains of the 1960s.

The supposed Democratic resistance to Trump’s program in Congress is merely for show. The Trump administration and the Republican Party will get nearly everything they want, while the Democrats wage a phony war and call on the victims of Trump’s attacks to wait until the 2018 elections.

The Democratic Party does not represent the popular opposition to Trump and the Republicans, as congressional Democrats and political charlatans like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren claim. Rather, its function is to serve as a brake on the actual resistance to Trump, from the working class, which will take on an increasingly explosive and politically radical form.

The working class must take the lead in the struggles to defend health care, education, environmental protection, the rights of immigrants and all basic democratic rights. It must answer the capitalist program of social counterrevolution with the working class alternative of social revolution. Workers must build a mass political movement independent of and opposed to the twin parties of big business, fighting on the basis of a socialist program.

Patrick Martin

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/03/14/pers-m14.html

The Republican House of Horrors Offers a Terrifying Health Care Vision

Republicans have exploited the repeal-and-replace meme with paybacks to some of their wealthiest friends.

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – MARCH 6, 2014: Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Halloween arrived early this year featuring the Republican house of horrors seeking to fulfill their long lust to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

While there are legitimate criticisms of the ACA—notably the 28 million still uninsured and its failure to limit escalating out-of-pocket costs—the coverage gains made through the ACA, through Medicaid expansion and the crackdown on insurance abuses, are largely eviscerated by the GOP plan.

Instead we have a plan that again fetishizes a market-based health care fundamentalism that saw the U.S. plummet in a wide array of health care barometers, including infant mortality and life expectancy rates and people skipping needed care due to cost compared to the rest of the developed world, especially before the ACA.

With the hodgepodge plan hurriedly released Monday night, the House majority attempts to straddle growing public support for a government role in establishing health security for the American people and approval of the Tea Party crowd that views any fingerprints of public protection as akin to Satanism.

The bill fails on both counts, while also betraying promises made by candidate Donald Trump that “we’re going to have health care for everybody” that is “far less expensive and far better.”

The principal effect of the new bill will be the loss of existing health coverage for tens of millions of people, without any restraints on health care industry pricing practices that add up to massive health insecurity for the American people.

Pretending to retain popular components of the ACA, the bill offers refundable tax credits to replace the ACA subsidies to buy private insurance, temporary continuation of the ACA Medicaid expansion, and requiring insurers to sell insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. But it’s like fools gold, each component sabotaged by the not-so-fine print.

Some lowlights:

  • Medicaid expansion, the mechanism of most of the ACA expanded coverage, is temporarily retained, but open ended federal funding would be ultimately replaced by a cap on federal payments that would encourage financially strapped states to slash eligibility of those covered and sharply cut covered services.
  • Refundable tax credits would provide less financial support than the current ACA subsidies, and by most initial analyses provide far less help for low and moderate-income people.
  • A 30 percent premium penalty surcharge on people who allow their “continuous coverage” requirement to lapse completely undermines the false promise that the bill retains the ban on insurers denying coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions. Even through the ACA health exchanges, insurers routinely change plan designs yearly in ways to increase out of pocket costs and limit patient choice through narrower networks. The surcharge will increase insurer incentives to engage in these practices.
  • Cuts in minimum covered health benefits, services now required by the ACA. Those would expire in 2020.
  • Elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood is a significant attack on women’s overall health care. Planned Parenthood clinics provide a wide array of needed health services.
  • Reduced funding for public health. Elimination of the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund will disproportionately harm low-income people and patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease that will worsen the health of communities and facilitate the spread of infectious diseases. As reported today by Vox, affected programs include the federal vaccines program, and programs to reduce heart disease and hospital acquired infections.

The architects of the new bill have exploited the repeal and replace meme with paybacks to some of their wealthiest friends and donors.

The draft bill includes a roll back of most corporate and high income taxes used to pay for the ACA, and, “as Rep. Keith Ellison has noted, a tax cut for wealthy people’s investment income and tax deduction for health care CEOs making more than $500,000 a year.”

If you follow the rhetoric of the repeal-and-replace crowd, they pay a lot of lip service to restoring “freedom” and “liberty.” But their approach to health care restricts freedom in the most personal aspect of our lives: health care.

Freedom to choose junk insurance has nothing to do with getting the care we need. In fact, it is the false choice of a faux freedom. This bill lets insurance shape what procedures doctors do, what drugs we take, and even which doctors we can see.

Nurses know there is only one real fix for our broken, dysfunctional, profit-focused health care system—an improved Medicare-for-all system, much as the rest of the developed world assures health care for its people.

NNU’s California affiliate, the California Nurses Association, is sponsoring a bill in California that could become the national model as an alternative to both the ACA and the fraudulently named GOP American Health Care Act.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/aca-replacement-terrifying?akid=15277.265072.oPECsp&rd=1&src=newsletter1073557&t=8

Gutting Obamacare: Opening Salvo in the Republican War on Seniors, Middle-Aged and Poor Americans

Seriously undermining Medicare and Medicaid, shifting thousands in unaffordable annual costs to families.

Photo Credit: http://www.speaker.gov

If Republican elites in Congress were honest about their agenda, no senior would ever vote Republican.

The current fight over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not generally couched in terms of its impact on seniors, but it should be. It is a thinly veiled — and serious — opening attack on the economic and health security of those who have spent a lifetime contributing to our nation.

While Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans campaigned on undoing the Affordable Care Act, no one ran on undermining Medicare or Medicaid. No one ran on undermining the health security of seniors. But the so-called repeal and replacement of the ACA would do just that.

Let’s start with Medicare. Seniors aged 65 and over, as well as people with serious disabilities, rely on Medicare for their basic health insurance. That program will be seriously weakened if the Republican plan to gut the ACA is enacted. It is estimated that Medicare’s revenue will drop by $346 billion. The Republican bill to repeal the ACA drains Medicare to gives tax breaks to wealthy Americans and corporations. In fact, even before Republicans pass a so-called “tax reform bill,” this bill’s giveaway amounts to a whopping $525 billion tax break for the wealthiest among us.

For those who have been paying attention, this weakening of Medicare is not surprising. In fact, it is just the first step in the eventual dismantling of this vital program, which Speaker Paul Ryan has been advocating for years. Consistent with that goal, as soon as the election ended, Ryan announced his intention to voucherize Medicare. He falsely claimed that Republicans had to “address” Medicare, saying, “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke.”

That is an enormous lie. The ACA strengthened Medicare’s finances. It is the Republican bill that would weaken Medicare. The next step will be undoing Medicare, by replacing its guaranteed insurance with vouchers. In that way, Republicans will shift Medicare’s costs from the government balance sheet to the shoulders of seniors, who will be on their own.

Medicaid is another program vital to seniors and people with disabilities. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has found that at least 70 percent of seniors will need long-term care at some point. Medicaid currently pays for the long-term care of more than 60 percent of nursing home residents.

The GOP’s bill, if enacted, will place caps on Medicaid spending, again shifting costs away from the federal balance sheet and to the balance sheets of states and individuals. If that is enacted, seniors needing long term care and their families may find themselves out of luck, since nursing home care is extremely expensive. It is estimated that the typical annual cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is $80,300. Very few families can afford that huge cost on their own.

And the impact on seniors not yet 65, and so, not yet on Medicare, will be the harshest of all. They will have more difficulty obtaining insurance and will face higher health care costs if this legislation is enacted and implemented.

(Editor's note: As Vox reported in its Tuesday analysis, "In general, the impact of the Republican bill would be particularly severe for older individuals, ages 55 to 64. Their costs [of annual premiums] would increase by $5,269 if the bill went into effect today and by $6,971 in 2020. Individuals with income below 250 percent of the federal poverty line would see their costs increase by $2,945 today and by $4,061 in 2020.")

In addition to slowing the cost of health care generally, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) limited the amount that insurance companies could charge seniors for healthcare. Upon repeal, insurance companies will be free to implement the ageist policy that charges even healthy seniors five times more for no reason other than their age. Not only that, the bill reduces what services insurance is required to cover. The result: people will be paying far more money for much worse coverage. This will be devastating for people in their fifties and early sixties, who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare.

The truth is that all of these cuts are entirely unnecessary. In fact, Medicare should be expanded to cover all of us. Medicare and Medicaid are more efficient than private insurance. Other nations are able to provide health care as a right, at a fraction of the cost with better health outcomes. We should be building on the successes of Medicare and Medicaid and the cost savings measures of the ACA. But instead, Republicans in Congress want to take us backwards.

Their reasons? Ideology, power, and greed. By proving that government can play a positive role in people’s lives, and provide wage and health insurance better and more efficiently than the private sector, Medicare and Medicaid, together with Social Security, disprove the GOP’s radical anti-government philosophy. Who would benefit from a nation without Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or the ACA? Wealthy donors.

While the top one percent has most of the nation’s wealth, we still are a nation of one person, one vote. Seniors and their families have the numbers to defeat this attack. But it will demand that all of us make our voices heard.

 

Nancy Altman is author of The Battle for Social Security: From FDR's Vision to Bush's Gamble (John Wiley & Sons, 2005) is president of Social Security Works and Chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition. She is co-author, with Eric R. Kingson, of Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All (The New Press, 2015), and has written the forward to a new release of Thomas Paine's

http://www.alternet.org/economy/gutting-obamacare-opening-salvo-republican-war-seniors-middle-aged-and-poor-americans?akid=15273.265072.9VWtB6&rd=1&src=newsletter1073462&t=24

How much did Russian hacking affect congressional races? And how deeply was the GOP involved?

Why is the speaker so blasé about Russian meddling? Maybe because he knows it helped the GOP win close races

How much did Russian hacking affect congressional races? And how deeply was the GOP involved?

(Credit: Getty/Mark Wilson)

If there’s one thing you can say about the Donald Trump presidency so far, it isn’t boring. From horror stories at the border to Trump’s semi-triumphant teleprompter speech and Attorney General Jeff Sessions being personally connected to the growing Russia scandal, this week has been a doozy.

I was not surprised that Sessions finally recused himself from the campaign scandal. It was absurd that he was not required to do so before he was confirmed. What finally forced him to take the step was the report that he had met with the Russian ambassador twice during the summer and fall, after having told the Judiciary Committee that he had not had contact with any Russian officials during the campaign. Top Democrats are now calling for Sessions’ resignation, and the story of his contacts with the Russian ambassador is still unfolding with new details about whether he discussed the Trump campaign.

The upshot is that at the very least Sessions showed appalling judgment in agreeing to meet the Russian ambassador the day after The Wall Street Journal reported that the director of national intelligence had declared that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. It’s very hard to believe that this didn’t come up in the conversation. Even if the two men were unaware of that comment, they must have been aware of the discussion the previous night in a presidential town hall forum with Matt Lauer, in which Trump praised Vladimir Putin in such florid terms that The New York Times story that morning began this way:

Donald J. Trump’s campaign on Thursday reaffirmed its extraordinary embrace of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, signaling a preference for the leadership of an authoritarian adversary over that of America’s own president, despite a cascade of criticism from Democrats and expressions of discomfort among Republicans.

One of those discomfited was House Speaker Paul Ryan who was quoted in the article saying, “Vladimir Putin is an aggressor who does not share our interests,” and accusing the Russian leader of “conducting state-sponsored cyberattacks” on our political system.

This was just one of the many times Ryan zigged and zagged during the campaign, constantly calibrating how far he could go in criticizing Trump while keeping Trump’s passionate voters off his back. This particular issue was a tough one, since until quite recently the Republicans had been inveterate Russia hawks and the abrupt switch to dovish goodwill was undeniably disorienting.

Prior to Sessions’ recusal on Thursday morning, Ryan held a press conference in which he blamed the Democrats for “setting their hair on fire” to prompt the press to cover the story. That was ridiculous. The press needs no prodding to cover this scandal; it’s as juicy as they get. Ryan also pooh-poohed the idea that Sessions had any obligation to remove himself from the investigation unless he was personally implicated and robotically repeated the contention that nobody had seen any evidence that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

That may be true, and presumably we’ll find out sooner or later. But it’s important to remember that DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, were not the only targets of hacking. Russian agents also allegedly hacked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That story has been scandalously undercovered, something for which Paul Ryan is no doubt very grateful.

On Dec. 13 The New York Times published an article that laid out how the hacked material was used in various House races. At first the hackers just released a lot of personal information, which was used by hostile individuals to harass and threaten the candidates. Then the hacks and dumps by the person or group known as Guccifer 2.0 became more sophisticated and targeted certain close races, releasing politically valuable tactical information:

The seats that Guccifer 2.0 targeted in the document dumps were hardly random: They were some of the most competitive House races in the country. In [Annette] Taddeo’s district [in Florida], the House seat is held by a Republican, even though the district leans Democratic and Mrs. Clinton won it this year by a large majority.

To prepare for the race, the D.C.C.C. had done candid evaluations of the two candidates vying in the primary for the nomination. Those inside documents, bluntly describing each candidate’s weaknesses, are considered routine research inside political campaigns. But suddenly they were being aired in public.

Taddeo lost her primary race to another Democrat named Joe Garcia who used the hacked material against her. And then this happened:

After Mr. Garcia defeated Ms. Taddeo in the primary using the material unearthed in the hacking, the National Republican Campaign Committee and a second Republican group with ties to the House speaker, Paul Ryan, turned to the hacked material to attack him.

In Florida, Guccifer 2.0’s most important partner was an obscure political website run by an anonymous blogger called HelloFLA!, run by a former Florida legislative aide turned Republican lobbyist. The blogger sent direct messages via Twitter to Guccifer 2.0 asking for copies of any additional Florida documents.

By September, the hacker had released documents in close House races in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina, working with Republican bloggers who disseminated the information for them. They also posted information on Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair, even though he was effectively running unopposed.

Both Luján and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote letters to Ryan asking him not to use the material and received no response. His spokeswoman told the Times that Ryan had no control over how the stolen information was used. Nonetheless, there were some Republicans who refused to do so, saying it was inappropriate. They were rare.

I don’t think anyone believes it’s likely that Paul Ryan personally colluded with the Russians in this operation. The fact that many Republicans, some affiliated with the National Republican Congressional Committee and a group closely affiliated with Ryan, eagerly used it to win their campaigns is not surprising. But it is highly unlikely that Republican strategists or party officials with strong knowledge of the House campaigns didn’t collude with the hackers at some point, because it’s difficult to believe that Russians would have which House races to target without some help from people with expertise concerning the 2016 map.

Republican congressional leaders must be thanking their lucky stars daily that the Trump administration is such a scandal-ridden Dumpster fire. If things ever calm down in the White House, somebody might just turn his or her attention to the question of what Paul Ryan knew and when.

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

A new war on birth control

Trump hires an anti-birth control policy adviser — and Republicans in Congress prepare to escalate the attack

A new war on birth control: Trump's victory has empowered the sex scolds
(Credit: Getty/ Alex Wong/AP/Andrew Harnik/Getyy/hbak)

Bad news for anyone who hoped that Donald Trump’s history as an adultery-loving and fornication champion might put a chill on the Republican Party’s war on sex: It seems that his election is instead inspiring the party of scolds to double down on their quest to punish ordinary people for having sex because they like it.

Trump, being wealthy and male, gets a pass for his lengthy history of sleeping with any woman who will have him — and bragging about grabbing the pussies of those who won’t. But for those of us who aren’t privileged enough to be wealthy men, Republicans are going to do everything in their power to inflict punishment in the form of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted childbearing.

Trump’s willingness to fully embrace the Junior Anti-Sex League was demonstrated on Thursday, when his transition team announced the hire of Katy Talento as domestic policy counsel for the White House, focusing on health care. Not only is Talento against abortion — which is par for the course in Republican circles — she’s also an anti-birth control fanatic.

Like most anti-contraception militants, Talento has an elaborate set of pseudoscientific arguments against the use of hormonal birth control. In a 2015 piece she wrote for The Federalist titled “Miscarriage Of Justice: Is Big Pharma Breaking Your Uterus?” Talento tried to scare women away from using effective, female-controlled methods of birth control, like the pill or the implant, by claiming these methods cause miscarriage and infertility.

It’s all nonsense, of course. The pill doesn’t cause miscarriage and most research shows that it doesn’t affect fertility. It may, in fact, improve fertility when a woman goes off the pill and tries to become pregnant.

“Decades of established science clearly show contraception prevents pregnancy — it does not cause abortion or miscarriages,” Dr. Anne Davis, a consulting medical director for Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “Women and doctors know from research, as well as our collective experiences, that birth control does not harm a woman’s fertility or health.”

Talento’s half-baked arguments are a classic example of a conclusion looking for an argument. The only reason to cherry-pick a couple of bad studies or arguments, while ignoring the scientific consensus that the pill is safe and effective, is because you don’t like women using it and you’re trying to come up with some nonsense to deter them. And the only reason not to have women take the pill is because you think it makes it too darn easy to have sex.

The Talento pick should put to rest any notion that Trump will stand in the way of the deep-seated Republican longing to deprive women, especially those with a low income, of access to contraception.

With drool practically dripping off his lips, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Thursday that Congress would try to defund Planned Parenthood and end Obamacare in a single bill, as soon as possible. While there are many horrific ramifications to such an act, one of the biggest would be stripping millions of women of their current methods of contraception.

About half of Planned Parenthood’s patientsmore than a million people — are on Medicaid. Ryan’s plan would immediately mean that this group of individuals would be prevented from relying on their current reproductive health center. That would leave hundreds of thousands of women abruptly cut off from contraception access, and many of them will not be able to find another provider, especially on short notice.

For many, there will be no way to restore that access, as half of Planned Parenthood clinics are in medically underserved communities, meaning that there are few, if any, alternatives for the women who visit them.

In some states, Republicans have tried to justify cuts to Planned Parenthood by presenting supposed lists of alternative providers for women on Medicaid. These lists were, to put it bluntly, constructed of lies. The majority of clinics on these lists do not have a gynecologist on staff. In Florida, the list of “alternatives” to Planned Parenthood included dentists, optometrists and school nurses.

Even if women can find community clinics that do offer gynecological care, it’s often not as good as what’s available from Planned Parenthood, which offers more flexible scheduling. Generally speaking, these clinics are less equipped to handle contraception needs. Planned Parenthood facilities often have a large stockpile of contraceptive medication, so women can fill their prescriptions on-site — a service more general health clinics typically can’t provide.

Repealing Obamacare, even if Republicans do bother to come up with some flimsy replacement, will be devastating for women’s reproductive health care. Right now, well-women visits and contraception services are covered by insurance plans, without a co-payment required. It’s unlikely these aspects of Obamacare will survive.

That’s a problem, because zero-co-payment contraception has been a wildly successful program. The percentage of women who had to pay nothing out of pocket for oral contraception rose from 15 percent to 67 percent from 2012 to 2014. Not only does that save money; it also improves the rate for contraception use. Research shows that women are more likely to use contraception consistently and effectively if there’s no cost. Other research has demonstrated that when women have to pay out of pocket for contraception, they are often tempted to skip their pills or otherwise skimp on birth control in order to save money — which frequently leads directly to unintended pregnancy.

Of course, a sudden drop in the number of women using contraception would be a feature, not a bug, of Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood and Obamacare. The nominal leader of their party may be a man who spent years going on Howard Stern’s show to brag about his sex life, but the GOP continues to begrudge ordinary women access to basic sexual health care.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte

Obamacare repeal’s hidden secrets: tax cuts for the rich, a new burden for seniors, Medicaid downsizing and mor

Obamacare repeal is coming — piece by piece and in the worst possible way
(Credit: Reuters/Scott Morgan/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Photo montage by Salon)

As wonderful as the Affordable Care Act has been for millions of previously uninsured Americans, I’m not breaking any news by observing that it’s a tremendously complicated set of laws aimed at reforming an insanely complicated insurance industry. The wonky nature of the law is perhaps the biggest advantage the Republicans will have when it comes to repealing and replacing it next year.

Few A-list pundits and even fewer lawmakers can adequately talk about what’s in Obamacare. (You might recall how the president-elect described part of the law as covering “kids who live with their parents,” which actually isn’t part of the law.)

Likewise, few pundits and lawmakers understand how treacherous it will be to destroy the ACA and voters themselves understand even less. This dynamic has created a huge loophole through which the GOP has relentlessly injected misinformation and outright lies. Again, the more complicated the law happens to be, the easier it is to confuse and mislead voters.

For example, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the congressional Republicans, not to mention 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, continuously screeched about how the ACA had ruined Medicare. That’s completely untrue. The ACA extended the solvency of Medicare by 11 years, while trimming billions in waste, fraud and abuse. The ACA also phases out the Medicare Part-D “doughnut hole” — the coverage gap whereby elderly Americans previously were forced to pay for meds out of pocket or go without. But the relationship between Medicare and Obamacare is complicated, so it’s easy for Ryan and others to engage in demagoguery.

Here’s a few more things you won’t hear Republicans talking about anytime soon.

The ACA is much more than just the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There’s the ACA law, of course, but there’s also another separate law that amended the ACA. Known as the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, this second ACA-related law contains all of the budget-related measures linked to Obamacare, including the individual mandate, the Medicaid expansion, the federal subsidies for lower-income Americans, the aforementioned closure of the “doughnut hole,” a Medicare tax increase on Americans earning more than $250,000 and so on.

Things become more complicated when we discover that the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act was attached to the 2010 health care reconciliation act as a rider. This third piece of the ACA puzzle included major student-loan reforms, including the expansion of Pell grants as well as the implementation of President Barack Obama’s plan for eliminating private banks from the federal student aid program, effectively reducing student loan debt while also cutting the deficit by billions.

That’s certainly a mouthful. But all that stuff is part of the package collectively known as Obamacare, and the GOP is ready to kill it all. They’ll start with the 2010 health care reconciliation act  because they have the votes. Every single reform you just read about in the previous paragraph (and more) will likely be repealed by the next Congress. To do so, the GOP needs only 51 votes in the Senate due to a rule that allows for a majority “reconciliation” vote on budget-related bills. The Senate Democrats can’t filibuster a repeal of the 2010 health care reconciliation act and they lack the votes to block the reconciliation process unless a few Republicans flip sides and join them.

In any case, the GOP needs only 51 votes in the Senate to repeal the mandate, the subsidies, the closing of the doughnut hole, the Medicaid expansion and all those tasty student loan reforms. Any “Never Hillary” millennials who voted for Jill Stein or stayed home because Clinton didn’t adequately adopt Bernie Sanders’ debt-free college plan should be especially alarmed by this news. So should elderly Americans, who’ll have no choice but to endure a grand reopening of the doughnut hole, forcing them to go without medication or to pay out of pocket for a month or two each year. Again, this is the part of the bill that the GOP will be able to easily repeal. And they will.

On top of all that, a 51-vote repeal of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 will also include a huge tax break for wealthy earners. When we say “huge,” we mean it. Scrapping this act will result in a $346 billion tax cut over 10 years for families earning more than $250,000. That’s great news for rich people, but horrible news for the rest of us.

Making matters worse, repealing the 2010 health care reconciliation act — or doing away with it along with its sister-law, the ACA — could strip as many as 37 million Americans of their health care coverage. Let’s do the numbers. There are about 12.5 million adults with coverage through the ACA, with another 18 million people covered under the Medicaid expansion, along with young people and kids who are covered under their parents’ plans or via the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Obamacare expanded with greater benefits. Furthermore, if Republicans haphazardly repeal the law, it could destabilize the health insurance industry, forcing insurers to abandon the individual marketplace and retreating to strictly group plans.

We haven’t even mentioned all the known knowns in a repeal process. We know that the Republicans don’t have a viable replacement plan for Obamacare. We also know that Democrats will filibuster a repeal of the ACA law, which they have enough votes to do. But the structure of the law can’t hold up for long if it’s missing the financial elements contained in the reconciliation act. The upshot will be mayhem and, as time rolls on, a lot of uninsured sick or injured people whose health care will be stripped away from them, thanks to greedy and vindictive Trump supporters who have been brainwashed by a superficial horse-race news media and a lying GOP into thinking the ACA is a disaster.

Weirdly, a large majority of Americans love the individual parts of the ACA, but many cringe when they hear the portmanteau “Obamacare.” Hence, the repeal is more about sticking it to Obama than anything else. Sadly, tens of millions of Americans will lose their health care simply because Trump voters yearned for Obama payback. It’s difficult to describe how tragic that is. Rank ignorance could rewind the clock to a time when thousands of Americans died every month because they lacked health insurance.

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon.com. He’s also the host of “The Bob & Chez Show” podcast, and a weekly guest on both the “Stephanie Miller Show” and “Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang.” Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.