CBO: Lower Premiums Would be a Result of Providing Less Coverage; Latest GOP Bill Would Raise Cost of Health Care for Many Americans

The rewrite of Trumpcare/Ryancare did very little at all to cure the earlier version of GOP health care reform, killing coverage for 23 million Americans, according to the Congressional Budget Office analysis released today.

Here are the most significant points from the CBO scorecard:

  • Lower premiums would be a result of offering Americans less coverage
  • Latest GOP bill would raise overall cost of health care for many Americans
  • Premiums for low-income elderly would rise 800%
  • The bill is a very poorly disguised tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and corporations
  • Rural States would be among the hardest hit

The takeaway? All of this is why:

Our lawmakers need to serve the needs of Americans instead of simply carrying the water for special interests and an extreme minority of Washington lobbyists. Americans deserve a better deal.

Administration’s Budget Plan Would Slam Rural America, Cripple States; Pie in the Sky Proposal Would Most Likely Force States To Raise Taxes

It raises a red flag whenever Washington tells us it plans to cut our taxes, because in the end it simply means the federal government will not be sending more of our hard-earned money back home to the states. So America if you want the services you have come to expect or need, you better get your states to raise taxes to make up for the loss.

This latest budget proposal, the brainchild of White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, is particularly devastating for rural Americans. Mulvaney will bark that the $1.7 trillion in cuts over 10 years will mostly hurt urban Americans, hawking the reduction in spending as welfare reform in thinly veiled code meant to confuse voters. But don’t be fooled. This budget blueprint, rolled out to coincide with President Trump’s attention-getting foreign trip, is a punch to the breadbasket for rural voters.

Consider these proposed cuts in the budget to departments and agencies that directly serve rural America:

  • Department of Agriculture -25%
  • Health and Human Services -16%
  • Department of Education -14
  • Department of Interior -12%
  • Small Business Administration -5%
  • Department of Transportation -13%

There are other examples, but we get the idea. Mulvaney is using the White House’s first full budget proposal to cut services to Americans to pay for massive tax cuts mainly for the wealthiest in our country. “Trumpenomics” dream of tax cuts that could be north of a trillion dollars over 10 years will without question hurt rural Americans deeply, many of whom are voters who cast ballots in favor of this administration that is turning its back on the their needs.

Adding to this inexplicable budget proposal is a laughable growth projection that runs contrary to forecasts from economic analysts with far more expertise then Mulvaney can boast.

“We believe that we can get to 3% growth,” Mulvaney said, providing no empirical evidence for his wishful thinking and ignoring the fact that actual growth the first three months of the new administration was the lowest in three years at 0.7%.

So here is the conflict: top economics experts using tools rather than guesses, like the blue chip Congressional Budget Office that is in the business of evaluating budgets, project growth at 1.9% through 2026. Would we love to see the gross domestic product average 3% over the next 10 years? Of course! But it does no American any good to throw out arbitrary, unrealistic numbers – just to pay for a tax cut.

It all amounts to a recipe for passing the buck to the states, which surely will be forced to raise taxes if this budget were to be approved by Congress.

Montana’s Great Homegrown Hope for Restoring Rural Values

Rural politics requires a never-ending search for the authentic, what-you-see-is-what-you-get candidate. Rural America isn’t about whom you know in Washington, Wall Street or Hollywood; it’s about electing one of our own that we can trust to keep his promises and look out for us, not the special interests.

Meet Rob Quist, the singing cowboy of Montana, who has his opponents sweating out the May 25th special election for the House of Representatives – and has left his own party’s bicoastal elites wondering if maybe they were a bit hasty in kissing off this gun-toting, hard-working, affordable-quality-health-care-for-all populist.

Quist comes from a small town you might think you read about in a Mark Twain tale called Cut Bank, Montana, and even the name of his bluegrass and country rock bands, the Mission Mountain Wood Band and Great Northern, sound as genuine as the summer sky. Quist picks at his guitar, playing folksy tunes he’s penned that sound an awful lot like campaign slogans, song like “Living Wild and Free,” and “Honor Bound.” He trumpets the entrepreneurial spirit and values small businesses, while condemning unnecessary red tape that gets in the way of job creation. Quist loves the land and promises to protect the air Montanans breath and the water they drink.

Thanks to his non-stop campaigning in a Winnebago he calls his rolling campaign headquarters, along with a mountain of small-ticket contributions to his campaign, Quist has made the fight for the statewide at-large House seat in Big Sky Country a real brawl. At least one poll has the contest down to single digits, and Quist is even outraising his opponent in campaign contributions.

Not surprisingly, Quist has his carpetbagger, multi-millionaire transplant from New Jersey linked to unsavory Russian companies calling in all his Washington cronies, including those named Trump, because Quist is building a dangerous base in the eyes of his opponents: rural voters. It’s a bloc that Quist’s party has watched steadily move away. Polls show that Quist’s national party only picked up 34% of the rural vote in 2016. With the support of other economic populists, like Bernie Sanders, Quist is looking to begin to reverse that trend, beginning in Montana.

And an upset victory not out of the question, either. This is a state that has elected some interesting and authentic Montanans, like Sen. John Tester, ex-Gov. Brian Schweitzer and current Gov. Steve Bullock, the latter who slashed at Trump coattails last fall and defeated that same carpetbagger, multi-millionaire transplant from New Jersey who now faces Quist. It’s a populist bunch that calls Quist their friend, mainly for one reason: he is the genuine, real deal rural candidate who woos cattlemen and college students; factory workers and farmers, Native Americans and nurses; bikers and biologists; and every other kind of authentic Montanan you can imagine.

We Can’t Give Up Democracy to the Russians, or Anyone Else

Nothing is more coveted in western democracy more than an individual’s right to vote for the candidate or issue of their choice. While a privilege for all Americans, the rural voter who may have to travel many miles to get to a ballot box to cast a vote understands the value and meaning of democracy better than anyone.

So it is imperative that our elected officials do everything in their power to protect American Democracy. Unfortunately, there are some lawmakers who choose partisanship over protecting the right of every American to vote. There are endless examples of domestic voter suppression, but siding with potential associates of a foreign country intent on disrupting a U.S. election is unprecedented and wreaks of political treachery.

It is disheartening that many (although not all) Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are obstructing, or at least slow-walking, efforts to determine just how far Russia went to interfere in the 2016 elections. Democracy must remain a non-partisan issue. All avenues must be investigated to ensure Americans their vote is not compromised or tampered with.

We are at a moment in our history when we must consider elected officials who will protect democracy and uphold the law, no matter which party is in power. Unfortunately, the party now in power is showing signs it is not up to the task of protecting democracy from outside intruders, like Vladimir Putin. Today’s Senate hearing into Russia’s interference in the election was an embarrassment for the GOP, as the vast majority of Republicans, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chose to ignore their duty and sought to divert attention away from getting to the bottom of Russia’s malfeasance. It is a dangerous precedent.

(Note: this post has been updated).

Health Insurance Reform That Hurts Rural Americans: Whose Bad Idea Was That?

Any so-called health insurance legislation that hurts rural Americans is not reform; it’s institutional inequality, it’s unfair and it’s un-American.

The irony of all ironies is that the Trumpcare or Ryancare replacement for Obamacare (which went down in flames) would have eliminated health care for 24 million Americans, hurting white, rural America most of all. Clearly this bill would have eliminated coverage made affordable for many Trump voters.

There were sizeable subsidies for the urban poor in the GOP health insurance plan, along with a budget-busting tax cut for the richest Americans, but somehow rural voters and older Americans just didn’t make the cut, almost as if the conspirators who wrote the bill actually thought we wouldn’t notice. Since they’ve tried pulling off that bait and switch health care reform scheme once, it is not hard to believe that they will try it again, and maybe sooner than we all think.

It should be no surprise that the race for the vacant seat in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District is emerging in part as a referendum on whether Congress should repair or repeal the Affordable Care Act. After all, it was the House seat of Tom Price, President Trump’s point man who, as Secretary of Health and Human Services, has led the administration’s charge for the repeal of Obamacare.

It also is no shocker that a rural state like Georgia will be taking the lead in seeing any mean-spirited overhaul of Obamacare gets usurped by plans for sensible incremental changes to fix the holes in the ACA. Jon Ossoff, a candidate for Congress in the mainly suburban 6th District, has a level-headed approach, calling for less ideology on both the left and right surrounding insurance reform and health care policy.

Ossoff says it plain speak: fix what is broken, dump what is not working and do not resurrect a system that sees Americans getting their health care attended to in emergency rooms at the cost of taxpayers. He proposes to find a way to allow insurance market competition across state lines, offer small businesses tax credits to help pay for coverage and repealing the unfair medical device tax.

This non-partisan approach is gaining momentum. Even the Georgia legislature plans to tackle the issue in some form because it is now committed to maintaining the Medicaid expansion set forth in the ACA. The not so deep dark secret is that Medicaid and Medicare are the most comprehensive and efficient health care plans available anywhere in the U.S. Expanding those programs is sound fiscal public policy. Of course there will be extremist lawmakers who try to dub any insurance reform socialized medicine, ignoring that sound health care policy and insurance reform are good for Georgia residents and the state’s economy. Health insurance reform means both immediate new jobs and ultimately taxpayer savings.

Georgia has no choice but to take the lead. Anthem Inc., the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, is serious about pulling out of Georgia, leaving residents without coverage. Blue Cross, the largest insurer in Georgia, is currently the only health exchange insurer in 96 of the state’s 159 counties. What is the fallout if Blue Cross opts out of Georgia? Rural residents will be hurt the most, and that includes an awful lot of Trump voters.

Rural Votes is Stepping Up in Tuesday April 18 House Race in GA6

Georgia‘s Sixth Congressional District affords us one of those unique opportunities to highlight the importance of rural and suburban partnerships. Health care, quality of life and education are issues that the more than 700,000 residents in the district feel strongly about — concerns that matter to rural and suburban voters alike.

Some 18 candidates are running in the district that stretches from east Cobb County to north Fulton County to north DeKalb County. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s special election then a runoff will be held June 20, pitting the two top finishers.

Polls show Jon Ossoff, a strong supporter of issues facing rural America, is the front-runner in the race, but he’s yet to break the threshold needed to avoid the runoff election, according to recently published polls.

Rural Votes specialty is identifying voters whose lives center around rural issues and that’s why this special election has drawn our attention and resources.

New rules will make it harder for many elderly, poor, black and Latino voters to cast ballots

New rules created ostensibly to stop voter fraud are making it more difficult for poor, black, Latino and elderly Americans, particularly in the South, to register for elections, Sari Horwitz reports for The Washington Post. “In November, 17 states will have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. Eleven of those states will require their residents to show a photo ID. They include swing states such as Wisconsin and states with large African American and Latino populations, such as North Carolina and Texas. Many of the residents struggling to obtain a valid photo ID are elderly and poor and were born in homes rather than hospitals. As a result, birth certificates were often lost or names were misspelled in official city records.”

Supporters of the laws argue that everyone should easily be able to get a photo ID, while “opponents say that the laws were designed to target people more likely to vote Democratic,” Horwitz writes. “Many election experts say that the process for obtaining a photo ID can be far more difficult than it looks for hundreds of thousands of people across the country who do not have the required photo identification cards.” (Post map)

In Texas, which has one of the strictest voter laws in the nation, a federal court found that “608,470 registered voters don’t have the forms of identification that the state now requires for voting,” Horwitz writes. Overall, “about 11 percent of Americans do not have government-issued photo identification cards, such as a driver’s license or a passport, according to Wendy Weiser of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.”

University of California at San Diego researchers analyzed turnout in elections between 2008 and 2012, finding “substantial drops in turnout for minorities under strict voter ID laws.” The study’s authors wrote: “These results suggest that by instituting strict photo ID laws, states could minimize the influence of voters on the left and could dramatically alter the political leaning of the electorate.”

Reprinted with permission from The Rural Blog.  Article written by Tim Mandell. Al Cross,  former Courier-Journal political writer, is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and The Rural Blog.

Ask Einstein

Yesterday, a New York Times editorial pointed out that  the federal district judge who upheld the most egregious voting restriction law in the country was a George W. Bush appointee, a conservative Republican who accepted the state’s arguments in favor of the law. The opinion piece went on to note the Republican-led roll backs destroyed fifteen years of  making voting easier.

The 2013 North Carolina law not only added the requirement that voters show acceptable photo identification at  the polls; it eliminated same-day voter registration; ended preregistration for young voters who will be eighteen and eligible to vote in the next scheduled election; cut back on early voting and Sunday poll hours; and put a stop on out of precinct votes being counted.

It’s true this case is the most recent damage the Supreme Court of the United States did in Shelby v. Holder by striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The second act of a voting rights tragedy which started in 2008 with Indiana’s voter ID case which upheld rulings by a Federal District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit throwing out challenges to the law.

Republicans are quite open about their motives. Voter ID laws and other restrictions create hardships for the traditional base of Democratic-leaning voters.  Fewer voters seems to mean better election results for Republicans. Now we are on to the next step in the litigation chain with an appeal to the Fourth Circuit, with hopes from voting rights advocates that this decision will be overturned before November’s presidential election. None of which is a promise of anything more than more litigation. And that takes time.

Meanwhile, it’s been a struggle to find funding for the mitigation work the Voter ID Project has been doing while litigation has been fully embraced, even though proving time after time there’s an obvious double whammy needed in the remedy department.  Time is not our friend with a critical presidential cycle in full swing.

There are some bright spots in doing the quiet work of getting people the information and the identification they actually need in order to vote. You’ll find Kathleen Unger’s baby at work in Wisconsin, and joining the line up is All Abut the Vote. These are two more efforts with the same goal as RuralVotes’ collaborative efforts with South Forward in North Carolina as well as introducing an innovative new program for the Voter ID Project in multiple states.  There are few organizations with a specific mission that tries to help people understand and comply with the laws as they are in effect now.  I can count them on one hand.  We are among those who believe in grassroots change that includes practical on the ground help to get voters what they need to vote now in addition to pursuing legal remedies.  It’s a new understanding of what it will take to change, and a willingness to admit we need to mitigate as well as litigate. Doing the same old thing just won’t cut it.

Rural voters were the difference on Tuesday in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho

Rural voters continue to be the difference in the presidential race, with Republicans that scored big this week in rural areas in Idaho, Michigan and Mississippi also winning the state, while rural Michigan was the deciding factor in the Democratic primary, Bill Bishop and Tim Marema report for the Daily Yonder. (Yonder map)

Democrat Hillary Clinton collected 11,000 more votes than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in urban areas in Michigan, beating him 49.6 percent to 48.6 percent in cities, but it was rural areas and micropolitan areas that carried Sanders to the upset, Bishop and Marema write. Sanders beat Clinton in rural areas by 8,000 votes—earning 55.3 percent of the votes to 42 percent for Clinton and also got 22,000 more votes in micropolitan areas—59.9 percent to 37.9 percent—to finish with 19,000 more votes than Clinton.

In the Republican race in Michigan, businessman Donald Trump won 42.9 percent of rural votes, compared to 25.6 percent for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and 18.2 percent for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Bishop and Marema write. Trump, who also won in cities and micropolitan areas, finishing with 36.5 percent of overall votes, to 24.9 percent for Cruz and 24.3 percent for Kasich. Trump also took rural areas in Mississippi, beating Cruz 50.7 percent to 36.6 percent. Overall, Trump won the state with 47.3 percent of votes to 36.3 percent for Cruz.

Cruz had a better experience in Idaho, where he edged Trump among rural voters, 39.5 percent to 36.1 percent, Bishop and Marema write. Cruz, who also won in cities and micropolitans, finished with 45.4 percent of the vote, to 28.1 percent for Trump. A Republican caucus will be held today in the Virgin Islands. Northern Mariana Islands holds a Democratic caucus on Saturday, while Guam and Washington D.C. hold Republican conventions on Saturday. (Read more)

Reprinted with permission from The Rural Blog.  Article written by Tim Mandell. Al Cross,  former Courier-Journal political writer, is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and The Rural Blog.

Sanders backers going to rural places no campaign has gone before, to win New Hampshire big

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is taking rural to the extreme in preparation for Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, where Sanders, a senator from adjoining Vermont, is the clear favorite over Hillary Clinton. “We are knocking doors in places where people have never gotten their door knocked before—and the experience is so unexpected that people are calling the police because a stranger is showing up their door,” so the campaign has started calling police in such towns to they can reassure callers, Sanders’ state primary director, Julia Barnes, told Sasha Issenberg of Bloomberg News.

“Much of New Hampshire is considered difficult to canvass, given the sparse population in the northern half of the state and the mountainous terrain that mottles it throughout,” Issenberg reports. “A surfeit of Sanders volunteers is pushing into parts of the state past campaigns would have considered inefficient to walk—even recruiting so-called driving teams of up to four people to team up on rural roads and snowy driveways.”

It’s difficult to reach New Hampshire voters by phone, Issenberg writes. “Over the week of Jan. 25, Sanders volunteers completed 11,000 phone conversations out of 250,000 calls placed—and 15,000 face-to-face conversations out of 60,000 attempted doorstep visits. The problem is particularly acute for Sanders, whose young get-out-the-vote targets often lack landlines and have not provided the campaign other methods of reaching them. Within that group, Sanders is making a concerted effort to mobilize those who would register for the first time on Tuesday, in line with New Hampshire’s same-day registration rules, meaning that there is not yet any trace of them on voter rolls.”

Fresh off a narrow loss to Clinton at the Iowa caucuses, Sanders is looking to reach as much of the state as possible in an attempt to score a big victory. Polls have Sanders leading Clinton in New Hampshire by anywhere from seven to 23 points, according to RealClear Politics.

Reprinted with permission from The Rural Blog.  Article written by Tim Mandell. Al Cross,  former Courier-Journal political writer, is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and The Rural Blog.