Here They Go Again, Ignoring Voters and Costing us More for Healthcare

From Rural America to the suburbs, voters sent Washington a message in elections around the country this month: healthcare matters to us, so stabilize the insurance marketplace.

Shockingly, arrogant congressional leaders are about to do the opposite. Republicans are choosing to ignore the will of the voters by raising the cost of insurance premiums and taking away healthcare from at least 13 million Americans.

Astonishingly, the Republicans are not even trying to hide their reason for gutting healthcare: to give corporations permanent tax cuts. Here’s the real kick in the pants for Rural Americans: the Republican tax cut plan only provides temporary tax cuts for middle class families, while adding $1.7 trillion to the national debt.

Lets say it again, just to be clear: the corporate tax cuts are permanent; the middle class tax cuts are temporary; and the Republicans would add another $1.7 trillion to the federal deficit.

Many top corporate executives readily admit they have no plans to use the cash windfall to create new jobs or invest in their companies. Right in the face of stunned White House economic advisor Gary Cohn, leading CEO’s admitted they plan to keep the Republican’s generous permanent tax cuts or pass it on to a limited few.

This incredibly stupid stunt, backed by corporate lobbyists and fat-cat Republican donors, will increase premiums for Americans by at least 10% every year beginning in 2018 and will mean no health insurance for 4 million Americans in 2019 and 13 million more go without coverage by 2027.

The move by the GOP doesn’t make much sense politically just a week after an anti-Trump vote that shook the entire nation on Election Day. Virginia was the epicenter, where an astounding 97% of voters who supported the winning candidate for governor said opposing Trump was a factor in casting their ballots.

Trump triggered the political earthquake, but just beneath the surface and we find Trumpcare a leading cause for the tectonic shift. A whopping 77% of voters who supported the winning candidate for governor in Virginia identified healthcare as the issue that matters most to them, exit polls showed.

Healthcare registered equally high on the political scale in Rural Maine. Voters broke new ground in that state, passing the nation’s first referendum in favor of expanding Medicaid under Affordable Care Act. Voters were forced to go around obstructionist lawmakers to pass Medicaid expansion, and three of out of five Maine voters backed the historic measure.

The victory in Maine was so substantial that other Rural States, like Idaho, Utah, Kansas, are gearing up to let voters decide for themselves in the 2018 elections. A new wave is building and will very likely come crashing down on anyone who gets in its path.

Friends, affordable healthcare for all is not a Blue State or a Red State issue. Accessible quality healthcare is an American issue, but some people will just simply never learn to listen to the will of the people instead of corporate lobbyists and Republican donors.

Crunching the Numbers: GOP Tax Plan Doesn’t Add Up for Rural Workers UPDATED

As Republicans in Congress begin to try to steamroll through their $1.5 trillion tax cut plan for corporations and the super-rich, Rural middle and working class Americans should be prepared to take a hit in the wallet if the bill passes.

While the bottom line numbers being floated by the GOP might sound seductive, take a look at the fine print: the exemptions that working families will lose out on over time make it a tax hike for many Rural Americans. The House Republican bill:

Those and other hidden tax traps mean a third of all middle-class families would pay more in taxes next year. By 2026, nearly half of all middle-class families would pay more in taxes. Rural workers, farmers and families will be among the hardest hit in the GOP tax bill.

So what is behind the GOP deferring the tax hikes for working and middle class Americans? To make the math all add up.  When called on it, the Republican tax writers admit the short-term maneuver, but say it will be fixed eventually. Rather than trusting lawmakers will do the right thing down the road how about don’t break it in the first place and then it won’t need to be fixed.

UPDATE: It gets worse for working and middle class Americans. As the Senate prepares to unveil it’s version of the tax bill, word has leaked out that its plan “would fully repeal the state and local tax deduction,” which folks everywhere depend on for a semblance of avoiding double taxation. Apparently the Senate GOP doesn’t mind sticking it working families twice! The GOP leadership plans to vote on this debacle of a bill after Thanksgiving. Call it an early Christmas present for the super rich.

Not surprisingly, the Republican leaders and tax writers are under fire and scrambling to find excuses for their tax scheme. The odds are already stacked in favor of the super-rich. Why give them even more ways not to pay their fair share to the country that gave them all their wealth?

The GOP tax bill is so bad that even some leading conservative and GOP-leaning religious groups think it stinks. 

Rural Americans can either step up and let their lawmakers know they don’t like what they are seeing from GOP tax writers, or they should expect pay more to Uncle Sam. That’s an easy choice to make.

Roanoke & New River Valley: Virginia’s Rural Economic Gems on Track

The history, geography, diversity and one of the most successful and growing business and education partnerships anywhere make Virginia’s Roanoke and the New River Valley a model for growing a sustainable Rural Economy.

A wave of educational, medical and economic growth is  forecast to erupt in the region amid job creating projects like the recently announced $90 million expansion of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and just-resumed Amtrak rail service to Roanoke, the latter a sure sign the area is a destination for entrepreneurs and investors.

“It puts an exclamation point on the work the McAuliffe Administration has done to build the New Virginia Economy through multi-modal, competitive travel options for all Virginians – an economy that’s more diversified and better able to create jobs and opportunities,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane explained.  “The Commonwealth’s impressive rail system includes 3,037 miles of track serving Virginia for more than 150 years. Rail connects the Port of Virginia, businesses and cities to other major population centers in the U.S. and beyond. It creates a vital economic link and is the foundation for 21st Century growth.”

The region is emerging as high-tech belt in a bucolic setting with an affordable cost of living. There’s plenty of real estate and the growth along with the Affordable Care Act is spurring massive job opportunities in the health and wellness sectors.  New ventures like computer-related hardware and software manufacturing, renewable power start-ups and even industrial hemp research projects are tapping into the existing production, agricultural and energy cultures, offering a sustainable economy for all of Southwestern Virginia.

Not surprisingly, the word is out on Roanoke and the New River Valley. Forbes and others list the region as one of the best places in America to do business.

It’s impossible to ignore the  commitment the state has made in the last four years to the region have put it one path to lasting and innovative success. Obviously now is not the time to turn off the path to growing a successful Rural Economy for Roanoke and New River Valley.

“While we have brought down the unemployment rate in Virginia and Rural Virginia,” said Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a former Army doctor who graduated from the Virginia Military Institute, “if you travel to the Eastern Shore where I am from, or the Southside or the Southwest, we still have work to do.”

“Just like we do from the Roanoke region through southwest Virginia, we understand what it’s like to live in a rural area and a lot of people do feel left out,” said State Senator John Edwards.

Pandering Establishment GOP Governor Wannabe Ed Gillespie Alienates Both the Trump Base and the Mainstream Republicans in Virginia Race

It’s the worst of both worlds for Republican Ed Gillespie as the governor’s race enters the final weekend.

Down the homestretch, Gillespie managed to disappoint (and is some cases anger) establishment Republicans with an inauthentic panic-driven foray into the world of Trump-style politics. As fears that a victory was moving out of reach, the Gillespie campaign began airing hate-filled TV ads meant to woo the Trump base.

The GOP establishment was shocked, but an inside source tells The Back Forty that the Gillespie campaign has quietly sought to assure the mainstream Republican critics that he is still one of them.

That news won’t sit well with the Trump backers in Rural Virginia, who will see through Gillespie’s two-faced pandering as a fake attempt to get their vote. Trump followers in Virginia were already suspicious of Gillespie, a GOP insider and big-business lobbyist with a clear establishment pedigree.

A disrespectful Gillespie even got caught snubbing a top rural Trump activist and evangelical minister two weeks ago. Polling data backs up that a significant chunk of the Trump base has not rallied to Gillespie’s side and is not excited by his establishment record.

Gillespie clearly wants it both ways: to be both an establishment insider and to pretend to be a Trump loyalist. So far he hasn’t even invited Trump to campaign with him, but he’s desperate enough to try use Trump-style Alt-Right campaign tactics to charm the Trump base. And even if Trump makes a last-minute appearance for Gillespie the final days it will leave Virginians shaking their heads at his fake politics.

Gillespie, a New Jersey native, clearly thinks he can fool Virginia, but Virginians are no fools.

Rural America Knows GOP Tax Plan: It was Tried and Failed in Kansas

What’s the easiest way to tell if any major government “reform” plan is a sham? If it isn’t rolled out with members of both parties at the microphone touting bipartisanship you probably need to be worried.

We saw it with the GOP’s failed “repeal and replace” health care reform bills and now we are seeing it again with the Republicans’ just announced corporate giveaway tax reform plan (which should really be called “the GOP lacks reform plan”).

So, Rural America, you want to see how the GOP “tax reform” plays out? Just look in our own backyard at the disaster in Kansas, since it’s the model for the newly proposed Republican tax cuts in Congress.

The true, real life horror stories as a result of the budget deficit in Kansas caused by the tax plan imposed on that state  in 2012 would be too scary for even Hollywood to make up. Prison riots, a state worker shot in cold blood, children gone missing and a halt in testing for radioactivity around a nuclear power plant are all blamed on cuts resulting from the GOP tax scheme in Kansas.

To pull off the scam, Kansas GOP Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer teamed up with ultra-conservative state legislators to implement what is known as the “failed Art Laffer tax experiment.” Like the Republicans now running Congress, Brownback claimed the economy would get a jolt, spurring new jobs and new private investment.

Brownback concocted a ridiculous swindle that pretty much gave more than 330,000 rich Kansans and corporations free rein to utilize state services without paying any state income taxes by exempting pass-through income; making royalties and rental income tax free; and eliminating the top bracket of the three-tiered income tax system in Kansas.

Businesses and wealthy Kansans simply gamed the system by reclassifying their entities to avoid paying taxes. In the end there was no new job creation, and there was no great expansion of growth.

Kansas had approximately a $1 billion budget hole within a year, forcing draconian cuts to road and bridge projects; schools; colleges and universities; hospitals; and had to spend all its rainy-day fund. Kansas even had to stop making payments to retirement plans!  Needless to say, the state’s credit rating took a dive.

The Kansas tax deception was so bad that it was GOP state legislators in Kansas who eventually killed it. Yet the Washington Republicans so blinded by their political need and greed are now adopting the same plan — and Art Laffer again is a chief architect, shepherding his flock of disciples named Trump, Ryan, McConnell and Brady.

The Republicans’ failed Art Laffer experiment became a real laugher for the rich and corporate types in Kansas. Now the Republicans in Congress are trying to play that same joke on all of America. The problem is it isn’t funny. It’s scary.

The Virginia Eastern Shore: Pristine Rural Setting Like None Other

Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of the most unique Rural Settings in the entire United States, no doubt about it. One of America’s most pristine play-lands, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Chesapeake Bay to the West, the Delmarva Peninsula is as big a seasonal draw for tourism as there is in the Mid-Atlantic.

Tourists from all over the world are lured by the rolling surf, wild ponies and fresh rockfish and crab meat, but once on the Eastern Shore visitors quickly discover the peninsula is fertile coastal farmland. The eats are as good as the beaches!

As the Eastern Shore demonstrates, agriculture in big business in Virginia, taking in a whopping $91 billion a year statewide. So it’s no surprise that a commitment to family farming, local growers and the expanding related aquaculture industry have been a big priority for the current Democratic administration.

“We have really been putting a lot of emphasis on ‘home grown,’ on using our own products right here in Virginia,” Lt. Gov.  Ralph Northam recently  told young family farmers on the Eastern Shore. 

“You all are the entrepreneurship of small business,” Northam said, heaping praise on the Virginia growers. “Our industry has increased by about 30 percent since 2013 and that’s to a lot of credit to you all.”

Northam should know, since he is a native of the rural Virginia Eastern Shore.

The state’s push to help farmers and watermen diversify agriculture and aquaculture on the eastern Shore is only part of the regional economic strategy.  Recruiting new manufacturing and services industries, particularly in the health care and tourist-related sectors,  is at the forefront of the state’s recent activity to spur economic growth on the Eastern Shore.

Along with creating support services for the military and aerospace sectors, the state’s partnership with and local businesses and government has provided a viable incubator for small businesses.

“You know as a doctor I have a plan to resuscitate rural Virginia,” Northam, a former Army doctor said in a recent debate. “It’s time to get the paddles out and shock rural Virginia back to life starting with universal access to broadband and cell coverage.”

Work in Progress: Rural Southwestern Virginia Deserves a Boost

Rural Southwestern Virginia is home to hard working folks who just want a good steady job. Fortunately, state leaders have been working diligently the past couple of years to bring new, sustainable business and opportunity to Southwestern Virginia.

For starters, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and community colleges in the region are retooling programs in order to lure and incubate new industries, so Southwestern Virginia is not perpetually dependent on one single product or service.

“We have a unique opportunity with this expansion to work with all relevant stakeholders, leveraging both public and private investments, to transform UVA-Wise into an international destination for students and researchers,” Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said in laying out a plan for re-building the Rural Economy.

“This will have a tremendous effect on the regional economy because when you can attract students and top talent from around the world for research and development, grants will follow. And with grants and applied research, business opportunities will soon follow. And structured correctly, these businesses will not only start up in Southwest Virginia, but they will remain and grow,” Northam explained.

The key to helping Southwestern Virginia retool is total connectivity. We need to ensure a safe, viable transportation infrastructure scan get products and people in and around the region. It goes without saying that virtual connectivity via broadband needs a serious overhaul to transform all of Virginia into a 21-century communications hub.

“We’ve all heard about the digital divide — and it’s very real here in Virginia. Hundreds of thousands of Virginians, including tens of thousands of school children, don’t have good access to reliable high-speed internet services,” said Northam, a Democrat, who hopes to rebuild the Rural Economy in his native state. “Without broadband internet, it’s difficult to promote and conduct a business, students can’t do their homework, and no one can participate fully in the digital society we’ve created. This is absolutely unacceptable in 2017.”

Broken promises won’t solve problems. Unfortunately, the Trump administration about a coming coal boom and the return of manufacturing jobs, the people who live in the Southwestern corner of the state are barely feeling it.

Trump talks a good game when he boasts of coal industry jobs returning, but what he just doesn’t want to admit is that market forces have a lot more to do with coal production and job creation than any government regulation or action can accomplish. Cheaper, more efficient natural gas and the lower cost of building gas-fired systems are the real reasons Appalachian coal is not in demand.

This is not a critique of the coal industry. We’ll leave that for others to do. We want to see full employment for all Rural America. This is about shaming of the Trump administration for trying to deceive Southwestern Virginia and other coal-producing areas into believing their regions are going to see a big rebound with coal. They won’t. Any growth in coal production will be limited and will flatten out in coming months, credible business and economic outlooks have forecast.  People deserve to hear the truth, not fairy tales.


Rural Retirees Will Take Huge Hit in GOP 401(k) Tax Scheme

Shockingly, the Republicans in Congress are giving serious consideration to taking money away from American retirees to help pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

Speaker Paul Ryan and his henchman in this scheme, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), want to take money away from retirees by significantly limiting the amount of cash that Americans can save in their 401(k) accounts before paying taxes. Denying retirement money to senior citizens would be a severe blow to Rural America, where the age 65+ population is growing at a rate disproportionately larger than in urban areas.

Now Trump claims the Republicans won’t tamper with 401(k) plans as part of the deal to provide a $1.5 trillion tax cut to mostly the wealthiest among us, but it’s not really his call. Congress decides what goes in the bill, and so far they are still talking about taking money from 401(k)s to pay for the tax cut they’ve promised their fat cat supporters.

Does anyone really believe Trump will veto a tax cut just because Rural Americans and retirees will get shafted in the deal? Not on your life. Trump has a pathetic first-year legislative record and will do anything to pass something he can claim is tax reform, no matter who it hurts, including retirees. He already proved that when he messed with Rural Healthcare earlier this month, costing his own supporters in premiums and coverage. Wall Street, AARP and other organizations aren’t taking any chances that Trump will keep his word and save 401(k)s from the GOP tax plan, banding together to oppose the move by the Republicans

Think about this for a moment: most retirees vote Republican now.  So messing with savings is a heck of a way to say thank you to those retirees who have aligned themselves with the Republican Party. The GOP is ignoring a pretty influential part of its own base by messing with American’s retirement money.

If the GOP can’t be trusted to look out for retirees and Rural Americans that should send a signal to the rest of  the Republican base that it can’t be trusted at all.

Rural America, Can You Find Your Tax Cut in the GOP Plan? Nope.

Go ahead, Rural America, find your tax cut; bet you can’t unless you’re a Wall Street investor or a corporate CEO.

It’s like a shell game on a New York City street corner, but this time it’s being played in Washington — and the “sucker” in this sham is mostly Rural America. Overall, one in four Americans will actually pay more in taxes, but the mostly urban rich don’t have to worry. We do.

The Republicans are pursuing a tax and spending plan that will add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the deficit in the next 10 years, cutting payments to the states and gutting programs that many Rural Americans depend on in their everyday life. States, counties and towns will either have to raise their taxes to make up for the loss of federal funds or else face cutting services including  police, fire and schools.

It’s pretty obvious the Trump-Ryan-McConnell tax plan doesn’t have the average citizen in mind. This fly-by-night approach to a tax cut ignores how less services mean fewer jobs, a worsening infrastructure problem and more homelessness.

The first questions worth asking are, Why have all the deficit hawks that dominated the GOP for decades flown the coop? Is a tax cut for the rich and corporations the end of fiscal conservatism as we know it? Are these tax cuts really worth ceding the fiscal restraint perch to the Democrats?

The next question is, If the Republicans take away the state and local tax deductions as they are scheming to do, then how are working- and middle-class Rural Americans possibly going to see a meaningful tax cut at the federal level?

The last series of questions to consider is, What in the world were the Republicans thinking when they proposed eliminating the mortgage deduction from federal taxes? Do they really want to trigger another housing crisis by wiping out the mortgage interest deduction?

The Republican tax cut scheme is a lot like the GOP healthcare repeal efforts. They talk and talk and talk about their plan, but when the time comes to show us the meat and potatoes they have nothing but a grain of salt. The same pattern is emerging with the tax cuts. They talk a good game, but now that it’s time to tell us how they plan to do it and pay for it, it’s a mishmash of half-baked ideas on a path that will explode the deficit they for so long said they wanted to reduce.

Its a big part of why support for Trump in Rural America is on a steady decline since his election.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due in Virginia

There is a lot at stake in the Virginia governor’s race on Nov. 7, beginning with maintaining the state’s robust economy built under Democratic stewardship in Richmond.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam has played a big part in Virginia’s vibrant economy and has strongly made known his commitment making sure Virginia’s economy remains vibrant and continues to gather steam.

Northam, a Virginia native and Army veteran, is part of a team led by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and their economic agenda has seen unemployment in Virginia drop this month to a nine-year low of 3.7%. Adding to the state’s rebound, Virginia workers have seen wages increase 7.4%, and their personal income climb a whopping 11.1% during the McAuliffe-Northam administration.

In contrast, Republican lobbyist and New Jersey native Ed Gillespie was a senior-most White House adviser to ex-President George W. Bush when the worst recession since The Great Depression swept Virginia and the nation. Jobs vanished, retirement accounts were gutted, banks foreclosed on homeowners and the taxpayers had to pay the bill for a disgraceful Wall Street bailout on Gillespie’s watch in the Bush administration.

The cornerstone of the McAuliffe-Northam economic agenda has been recruiting new business to locate in Virginia and creating incentives for start-ups to flourish in the state. Some 1,012 economic development projects, worth a record-breaking $16.4 billion, surpassed economic expansion under any other administration in Virginia history. Most importantly, the Rural Economy is finally headed is the right direction in Virginia, thanks to the incentives and initiatives the Democrats have given to small towns, local growers and the unique economic challenges Rural Virginians face.

Democratic priorities have enabled Virginia to become home to some of the top public school systems, colleges and universities in the nation. Thanks to sound planning, schools are providing educational opportunity that fit with Virginia’s 21 century job market. It’s crucial for Virginia to stay on the path of economic/educational partnership.

Clear air, waterways and state recreational areas, protected and expanded under Democratic leadership in Richmond, also provide a certain quality that supports Virginia’s age-old outdoors tradition. Clean water and clean air translates into clean fisheries and clean family farms, and that means jobs and good homegrown eats.

Does anyone really think a Republican in the era of Toxic Trumpism is going to look out for the environmental needs of Virginia’s fishermen, campers, hikers, bikers and hunters? It’s a fair question.

Quality of life is not a priority of the Republican agenda. Under Gillespie, health care will cost more and provide less coverage; voter rolls would be purged and access to the ballot box would diminish for people of all races and denominations. Worse yet, The Trump drain on the local Virginia economy will grow, and we all know fisheries, farms, historic sites, public parks and forests would all fall victim to the Toxic Trumpism clear-cutter policies.

There is little doubt that this election will affect the future of Virginia. Voters is the Old Dominion have to take care that Virginia remains the great place it has become for small businesses to thrive, families to flourish and visitors to continue to spend money in the state. The answer to what that future may hold is in the numbers. And numbers don’t lie.