Current continuing Republican hegemony in our politics still surprises me in light of the frequency with which Republicans reference lack of veracity in their rhetoric.  You would think that a group so insistent on the "fakeness" of the publicly available news would insist on veracity from its own politicians, but that doesn't seem to be the case.  For example, back in July--you may recall that the Republicans were trying to repeal and replace Obamacare by themselves at that time, drafting their bill behind closed doors--Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, justified the closed door enterprise by claiming that the Democrats had passed the Affordable Care Act the same way.  But on July 23 of this year, the New York Times published a comparison of the bill the Republicans produced with the ACA, and it indicated that while the Republican controlled Senate passed zero amendments to their bill proposed by the Democrats, when the ACA was passed it contained 188 Republican amendments, including the requirement that members of congress buy their insurance through the public health exchanges and allowing small businesses to syndicate their purchases of coverage.  And in fact...ironically...the ACA's mandate was a Republican idea originally, though now they are trying to undermine the ACA by repealing it concomitantly with what they call tax reform.  McConnell outright lied about the roles that the two parties played in their opponents healthcare-related legislative efforts, but that didn't seem to bother rank and file Republicans.  What it comes to is that hyperbole and outright misrepresentation are the coins of the Republican realm today, and for the past twenty years or so...thirty if you want to include the advent of "trickle-down economics," all of which has to elicit the question of whether the Republicans are telling the truth with regard to their two "tax reform" proposals.

Let me start my answer with this; I redid my taxes for 2016 using the tax brackets proposed in the House of Representatives and my wife and I will pay perhaps a thousand dollars more under the Republican plan than under the existing tax code.  Including my Social Security, we bring in something in the low hundred thousand plus range and we have no children at home any more.  We live pretty well, but we are not rich by any means...definitely firmly in the middle class.  The reason is that getting one $24,000 deduction instead of over $12,000 in exemptions and $16,000 in itemized deductions reduces our deductions by $4,000, which though taxed at a lower rate still results in higher net taxes.  Donald Trump will pay less, and the manager of your local hedge fund will still pay only 20% on his "earnings" because of a special provision just for him in the current and future codes, but if you are like most people who have worked hard, bought a house and put a little aside, there's a good chance you too will pay more.  The guy who built your house won't, but you will.  Then, in the Senate version of tax reform the insurance mandate is repealed, which sounds at first like a good thing.  But it's consequence will be that people for whom health insurance is a stretch will stop making the effort because...well, because it's a stretch.  The result will be that the federal government won't have to subsidize their premiums any more; they won't have insurance, but the federal budget deficit will be reduced, which might just be the margin the Republicans need to get their plan passed with a bare majority in The Senate instead of having to get 60 votes to pass it under the regular procedure.  With the mandate, their plan would raise the budget deficit too much to make the plan passable under what is called "reconciliation," which allows a simple majority to pass a finance related bill.

Of course, this all related to the fact that there will be federal elections in 2018 and the Republicans feel the need to pass something significant in order to satisfy their constituents, but here's the rub.  If they fail to pass anything, the voters will say that the party got both houses of congress and the white house from them and still couldn't do anything, so why let the Republicans keep their majorities.  On the other hand, if they pass something that will cost their constituents their tax refunds and even something more, they'll say that Republican policy favors the rich, including Trump and the new alligators with whom he has replaced the old alligators in his "swamp."  It's the old rock and hard place dilemma.  What's a party to do?  Or more aptly, someone is going to get screwed if they win.  Who's it going to be.

Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

The Republican Party, though some Republicans have opted out, continues to employ dubious tactics in serving their constituency at the expense of the rest of us.  Senators Corker and Flake aren't the first to see the moral failure of such tactics--of the decline of comity in our legislature, in fact--by declining to run for reelection.  For example, Democratic senator Birch Evans Bayh III, the namesake of his father (though Birch III went by the name Evan) who had also been in Congress, declined to run for reelection for his Senate seat from Indiana in 2010 citing degradation of Senate principles of conduct and political polarization of the electorate that made moderate politics non-viable.  You may remember that 2010 was the year in which the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives back from the Democrats. 

Dismay over our politics may not be unique to a few Republicans, but there has been a paucity of Republicans who are willing to repudiate the now-accepted form of political conduct in what became after 2012 a unified Republican Congress with both houses in Republican control.  Now, under the influence of Donald Trump and his tendency toward prevarication if not outright dishonesty, the conduct of the party in power, unified in its affinity for disingenuous fulminations against anyone who disagrees with them, our government is the most in need of such righteousness of any administration in memory.  The Democrats continue to mouth politically trite indignation, but being the opposing party, their protestations are little more than the expected riposte to most of what the Republicans say.  And regardless of intent, their attempts at defense in the face of a withering assault on their constituents by the conservative captors of the Republican ethos have been to little avail, and cannot be expected to do better if left unfortified in some way.

The only counteractive strategy that might work against the degradation of the American polity in both spirit and method would be a counter-reformation, so to speak. The diffident leadership of the Democratic Party has made fainthearted attempts at fomenting one, but fainthearted is not enough.  Until Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, our former president, Barrack Obama, or some other embodiment of the Democratic platform makes a successful effort to be on the evening news as often as Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are, fear of the worst in 2018 and 2020 cannot be assuaged.  Someone--and it doesn't appear that there is a Republican who believes in it so it will have to be a Democrat--must reignite what we of the boomer generation knew as the American Ideal as a guiding light for the electorate. Some antidote to the American iteration of the Nazi adopted "blood and soil" mentality of pre-war Germany must be found.  It is not enough to decry what has euphemistically been dubbed the "alt-right."  An alternative must be offered that will meet the needs of our people better than the greed and elitism that American capitalism has gradually fallen into since the New Deal.  In the end, it is all about money, including the xenophobia that is rampant on the right today.  We need someone who can project American secular humanism, which in its essence is what the Democratic Party stands for traditionally.  We need charisma and credibility in our next leader: gravitas and credibility.    I can think of two candidates.

The first who comes to mind is Howard Dean, the physician former governor of Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate.  When he ran for the nomination, he was still too young at heart and his boyish enthusiasm outshined his dignity of purpose.  He's still around, and every once in awhile you can see him on television offering political commentary consistent with the principles we need to revive.  But his viability as a candidate for high office may still be suspect, thus, he would make a sound choice for vice-president.  But for the top spot in the Democratic Party, perhaps someone else would be best.

The country's majority--not those who must be overcome, but the majority--still wants a woman for president.  And as the United States becomes less white and more homogeneous, that is, more like the rest of the world, a person of ethnicity becomes more and more desirable to a larger and larger segment of the population.  So, here's what I propose.  Michelle Obama should let her husband do what Bill Clinton did, which is to go off and do good work as a president emeritus.  Let him go off wind-surfing in Hawaii while she stays home and makes her presence felt to the extent that the news media give her time and her station in our society becomes less inchoate and more present.  She has the gravitas needed.  She has the credibility.  What a refreshing change to the nightly news she would be.

Your friend,

Mike

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