“Manchin, Biden need to use some common sense”; WV Gazette; 5-11-21

“Senator, we know you are all about bipartisanship, but President Biden did not get a single Republican vote for a relief package in the middle of a pandemic, so at this point doesn’t bipartisanship seem like a false hope?”- ABC’s Martha Raddatz to Manchin (3-7) 

Senator Manchin was on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” right after the passage of the American Rescue Plan on a 50-49 Senate vote (https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/week-transcript-21-sen-joe-manchin-gov-mike/story?id=76305921 ). As he noted, Biden had brought in 10 of his more reasonable GOP colleagues to talk prior to ever structuring the bill and “we had an awful lot of input from my Republican friends.” But even though Manchin said that he wants the “moderate middle to work”, not one of them voted for it. 

It seems like Manchin has the right ideas for a perfect world… but enabled by Trump supporters, tribalism has destroyed that world for the foreseeable future. That’s why Senator Mitch McConnell has declared “total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do” (https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/05/mitch-mcconnell-joe-biden-obstruction ) . Just like Mitch did when he halted the Obama agenda. 

In the ABC interview, Senator Manchin emphasized that his guiding principle is “commonsense.” But commonsense tells us that if you are Biden and want something to get done in the Senate on infrastructure, you may have to do it without GOP votes, as was done to enact the American Rescue Plan. And that makes Senator Manchin a shot caller in the Senate. 

As of today, Biden has voted 100% in line with Biden’s positions on dozens of bills (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/biden-congress-votes/joe-manchin/ ). However, that often is because Biden has modified his proposals to be in line with something that Manchin can vote for. Frankly, Biden has had little choice given the solid, uncompromising wall of opposition on the GOP side. 

The one real positive is that these two guys are very similar in many ways. Biden and Manchin are both working class, down to earth people that care for the little guy. And they truly like each other. As Manchin said, “I think he’s a good human being, just a good heart and a good soul and he’s the right person at the right time for America” (https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/548091-inside-the-surprisingly-close-biden-manchin-relationship ).  

When politicians like and respect each other, they make compromises to get things done. The real question becomes, what does each side want and how can they reach a deal where both win more than they lose. In the immediate future, that may mean breaking the infrastructure bill into smaller sections so that some of it is enacted and modifying tax increases. Likewise with items like healthcare, gun control and the minimum wage.  

For example, Bernie and Warren are pushing to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 55 (note: most progressives want it to cover all ages). Candidate Biden said he would lower it to 60. Manchin is hesitant but could probably be convinced if Biden spoke with him. 

On gun control, Manchin could get behind some reforms, even if not the major changes that are needed to have a full impact. In 2013, the Manchin-Toomey background check bill was defeated 54-46 in the Senate. Five Democrats voted against it. Just 8 years later, none of them are in the Senate and more progressive people have taken their place. Why not take it up again and have Manchin get a GOP co-sponsor like Collins to round-up GOP support? 

As for the minimum wage, Manchin wants $11/hour. Biden wants $15. Compromise at $13/hour. It will get 50 votes. 

You will notice that I have predicated everything on 50 Senate votes rather than 60, the number needed if filibustered. That’s because getting these bills enacted will take avoiding the filibuster, either through budget reconciliation or other means. And Manchin must agree to it, as he did with the American Rescue Plan, or nothing at all will be accomplished in the rest of Biden’s term. 

Constituents often complain about Washington deal making, but without these deals, we would not have much forward progress. Said another way, what can the President give to Manchin to get him on board with Biden’s priorities? 

“North Carolina, the issues and 2022”; Like the Dew progressive journal; 5-14-21 

North Carolina, the issues and 2022 

Georgia has changed from a solid red state to a light blue state that voted for Biden and elected two Democrats, one black and one Jewish, as Senators. Will North Carolina follow in Georgia’s footsteps and what would that mean for the Democrats?  A lot depends on how well Biden does in the next 4 years. And how NC members of Congress respond to his initiatives. Burr will be stepping down in 2022, leaving the door open for a Democrat if Biden is popular. Tillis was re-elected in 2020 but won primarily because his opponent (who led in the polls) had a sex scandal. He could be vulnerable in 2026. In his first 100 days, President Biden has been a surprisingly activist and progressive leader. He pushed through his massive relief plan. He’s making progress on getting his infrastructure plan approved, even if it is scaled down a bit. But he has received virtually no support from across the aisle from GOP Congressional representatives from NC or elsewhere. In fact, this seems to be a repeat of what McConnell and the GOP leadership did during the Obama years. Oppose and delay everything Biden proposes for the first two years of his term… and then turn over Congress in 2022, as the GOP did in 2010. Our nation’s voters have been moving into warring tribes for decades. Notably, this trend started with contentious House Speaker Newt Gingrich who got President Clinton impeached over lying to Congress regarding sex with an intern. Of course, the Trump MAGA era exacerbated the tribalism trend, further demonizing the opposition. It has gotten so that each camp believes that it is 100% correct. And thinks that most Americans agree with them, believing exactly what their camp believes versus what the other side advocates.  With this in mind, let’s examine the findings of an April Morning Consult/Politico national survey (https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000178-cfbd-d112-a97e-ffbde6ef0000&nname=playbook&nid=0000014f-1646-d88f-a1cf-5f46b7bd0000&nrid=0000014e-f115-dd93-ad7f-f91513e50001&nlid=630318 ). A majority of Americans (59%) approve of the job Biden is doing, versus 37% who do not. He gets relatively high approval marks on coronavirus (63%); the economy (55%), jobs (53%), education (52%), the environment (52%); voting rights (53%), national security (50%), Social Security/Medicare (51%) and healthcare (55%).  But Biden’s ratings are not as high on energy (49%), immigration (41%); gun policy (47%); and foreign policy (43%). Unfortunately, surveys of this type can be misleading. For example, are Biden’s rating lower on energy, a. because he is not moving fast enough implementing the “Energy New Deal” or b. because people are skeptical of moving away too quickly from coal and oil? The same goes for gun policy, although given other surveys it would be safe to assume respondents don’t believe that Biden is moving forcefully enough on gun control (even though Congress and the courts are in reality responsible). Focus groups of typical voters need to be conducted to find out exactly why respondents gave these answers and how to reach them politically. In the past, the GOP has been much better at this game than the Democrats. In particular, brilliant GOP pollster Frank Luntz has done a great job of analyzing what wording voters respond to and why. As Luntz stated about his work with focus groups, “my job is to look for the words that trigger the emotion” (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders/interviews/luntz.html). For example, the GOP’s faltering opposition to the estate/inheritance tax became their successful opposition to the Democrat’s “death tax.” The GOP using “energy exploring” rather than oil drilling when opening public lands is another example. If the Democrats want to retain power in 2022, they must win the messaging battle, portraying the GOP as an out-of-touch extremist party and themselves as the reasonable party of compromise, even if that may not always be true. And that means getting their own progressive version of Frank Luntz to show them the correct messaging to reach the voters. In that Burr is retiring, North Carolina will clearly be a primary battleground in the 2022 election. If the Democrats continue to build on their strengths while countering via messaging their perceived weaknesses on immigration, guns, energy and foreign policy, North Carolina may provide the Democrats with a 51-member Senate majority. If a somewhat progressive candidate along the lines of a Warnock or Ossoff wins, that could mean that the Democrats could move their progressive agenda via reconciliation regardless of Senator Joe Manchin’s opposition. 

“Evangelicals are stout in their support of Donald Trump”; Gwinnett Forum; 5-14-21

Evangelicals are stout in their support of Donald Trump

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”– Isaiah 1:17 

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga.  |  In an ideal world, the leader that Protestant Americans most admire would be someone that they can look up to. Someone that they can want their children to aspire to be like. Someone who defends the oppressed, like in the Bible quote above. But we all know that our world is not an ideal world. It has many flaws and contradictions. 

People can argue in good faith about individual President Trump era policies. But given his lack of basic morality, it is hard to defend Trump as a person, or to justify the abysmal way that he handled the presidency from day one, cynically dividing the nation into feuding tribes. He was the opposite of everything stated and implied in the Biblical quote.  

However, in April 2017, white evangelical Protestants strongly supported Trump with 71 percent approving of his performance. Even among white non-evangelical Protestants, the number was 52 percent, still a majority.  (Pew Research.)

You may or may not like President Biden’s policies, but it is hard to say that you disapprove of him as a person or the way he is handling his job at this early stage of his term. However, in April 2021, only 23 percent of white Protestant evangelicals approved of his job performance. The figure was only 45 percent for white Protestant non-evangelicals. 

For the religiously unaffiliated, including agnostics/atheists/ nothing in particular, the figures were essentially reversed. In April 2017, only 24 percent approved of Trump’s performance. Whereas, in April 2021, 71 percent of the unaffiliated approved of Biden’s performance. 

It should be noted that I’ve noticed similar discrepancies before when examining religion and a specific issue, like gun violence. For example, the rates of firearm deaths are the greatest in the following states: Alaska, Mississippi, Wyoming, New Mexico, Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Arkansas, Montana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.  (CDC). 

Interestingly, five of these states are the five most religious states and the other five are all considerably more religious than the average state. And all of these states are solidly red states, except New Mexico, which leans blue. 

So, where does this leave us regarding religious Protestants and politics? Frankly, with more questions than answers.  

Ex-President Trump continues to exert tremendous influence on the Republican Party, with anyone who opposes him (for example, solidly conservative Liz Cheney) being drummed out of leadership positions regardless of their ideological political positions. But why do white Protestants (and evangelicals in particular) still support Trump, even though he is immoral and frequently lies? How do they justify doing this when they say that they follow the teachings of the Bible? 

Are evangelicals brainwashed by FOX, Breitbart and the other “fake news” outlets promoting right wing conspiracies? Do they just ignore traditional mainstream media and facts? 

Or is it something else that permits them to ignore their religious teachings and support Trump rather than Biden? 

“Hopes and prayers”; Fayette Observer; 5-14-21

Hopes and prayers 

“Keep the victims…in your thoughts and prayers”- Sen. Tillis after the Parkland massacre. 

“The only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’ every time…and wonder why these things keep happening.”- mass murderer Ian David Long 

Since 2013, 4,180 North Carolina residents have perished from gun violence, including 255 last year. Another 8,202 have been injured, some seriously. Nearly 300 of those killed were minors, as were nearly 700 of those injured  

(https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/congress/nc ). Clearly, North Carolina has a problem. 

We have also had a recent flood of mass shootings in other states. But that is nothing new. 

In 2018, Long posted the above on Facebook and Instagram. It was just before he walked into a college hang-out bar in a white California middleclass neighborhood near where my brother lives and shot 12 people to death, mostly students. 

Long used a semi-automatic pistol with high-capacity magazines, plus a smoke bomb. Long was known to be mentally ill, as even he acknowledged. But the x-Marine still legally purchased guns and was able to illegally obtain high-capacity magazines. 

The Second Amendment to the Constitution is poorly written and reads as follows,A well regulated Militia,being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (emphasis added) 

The US government, all branches, and state governments like North Carolina’s can do many things to prevent gun violence consistent with this Amendment. They choose not to. 

First, the Roberts Supreme Court can and should reverse its activist, highly political decisions on guns (District of Columbia v. Heller,2008 and McDonald v. Chicago2010). In them, the Roberts court decided to reinterpret the Constitution such that individuals, rather than state militias, had a right to bear arms. 

Prior to these 5-4 decisions, the Second Amendment was 

interpreted (United States v. Miller, 1939) to mean that state militias were permitted to bear arms. In Federalist Paper 45, James Madison writes about arming of states being necessary to control federal power. 

Second, the 2008 and 2010 decisions never said that there could be no regulation at all of firearms. In fact, the 2008 decision stated that their findings did not restrict “prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” or prohibitions on individuals owning modern military weapons, “M16 rifles and the like”. 

Thus, even under the clearly biased 2008 and 2010 rulings, Congress and State Legislatures like North Carolina’s can still regulate guns. National legislation is long overdue to: raise the age for gun purchases to 21; eliminate the “gun show” loophole; stop gun purchases via the mail; halt unregulated private gun sales except between close relatives; strengthen background criteria and checks; set up an improved national firearms data base; ban excessively large magazines; prohibit automatic and semi-automatic guns; restrict how, where and when guns can be carried; and fund aggressive efforts to get guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill. 

The next time a politician like Senator Tillis pontificates about “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting, contact them criticizing their lack of courage in tackling this deadly problem. Let them feel your outrage before more die. 

“Georgia and the USA need a $15 hourly minimum wage”; LaGrange Daily News; 5-12-21

Georgia and the USA need a $15 hourly minimum wage 

 “The Republicans believe in the minimum wage — the more the minimum, the better.”-Harry S. Truman 

Having a reasonable minimum wage decreases inequality while encouraging those at the margins of our society to get a job. Frankly, with the constantly rising cost of living, raising the minimum wage just seems logical.  

However, despite inflation, the unrealistic $7.25 per hour national minimum wage has not been raised since 2009. But, contrary to what the current right-wing ideologues controlling the GOP may say, raising the minimum wage is not a new or revolutionary concept. Minimum wage increases have been legislated 22 times before by both the Republican and Democrat “socialists” running our nation since 1938.  

Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 will not suddenly lead to total income equity in Georgia or the United States. However, it would clearly be a small step in the right direction and is supported by the majority of Americans. The fact is that America has become more and more economically stratified over time. And a move to $15/hour is long overdue in a nation with gross income inequitites. 

The Rand Corporation recently issued a report showing how the US middle class (defined as the “middle 60 percent of the earnings distribution” income) is declining. One chart “Share of Total Income Accruing to Middle 60 Percent, 1967–2019,” illustrates how the proportion of income going to the middle class went from 53% in 1969 (when I graduated from college) to 45% today (https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives).  

Another chart illustrates that we are far behind other developed nations regarding income inequities. For example, for Gen X folks (born 1965-1982) in the USA, only 54% are middle class. The average number for OECD developed nations is 64%. 

A few years ago, EPI analyzed historical compensation data for CEOs and other employees (https://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-compensation-2018/). What EPI found was shocking. Since 1978, CEO pay was up an amazing 940% while pay for the common worker was almost flat, with just a 12% increase. That’s a 278-1 ratio. 

Back in 1978, the average CEO annual comp for the 350 largest corporations was less than $1 million. That CEO now makes an average of $17 million annually (including $14 million in exercised stock options, taxed at low rates). There are many CEOs of failing companies that make millions annually. 

The current incarnation of the Trump GOP is playing to the white working class for votes but is completely hypocritical when it comes to policy versus bombastic nationalist rhetoric. Gov. DeSantis in neighboring Florida is a good example of someone professing to be for common people but actually working against them. 

He was elected in part because he painted his opponent (Mayor Gillum) as having a “far left socialist platform”, in part for advocating a Florida minimum wage increase. GOP conservatives use that right-wing catch phrase “socialist” to disparage anything they don’t agree with ideologically. And DeSantis’ interpretation is factually incorrect, according to every accepted definition of the term. 

According to the unique DeSantis definition, we have been a “socialist” nation since 1938. That’s when the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which included a minimum wage, was first enacted with both GOP and Democratic Congressmen voting for it. 

There was a national bill (HR 582) in the last session of Congress to increase the US minimum wage. Passed in the House but permanently stuck in the “Grim Reaper’s” Senate, that bill was just a modification of the 1938 law in order to keep up with inflation and the changing economic situation. 

But the politics are very tough. The Senate is currently split 50-50 between the two parties. Plus, conservative Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema oppose raising the minimum wage to $15.  

Further, the Senate Parliamentarian said that raising the minimum wage could not be done via the budget reconciliation committee (i.e., only requiring 50 votes to pass versus 60).  

Of course, if twelve GOP Senators would vote for raising the minimum wage to $15, a separate bill would pass anyway. But that would mean 12 Republican Senators truly being populists who help the downtrodden… versus just spewing classist/racist rhetoric to inflame blue collar workers in order to win an election. So, obviously there is very little chance of that happening in today’s GOP. 

“First 100 Days Radical, Rational or Both?”; Fayette News; 5-12-21

First 100 Days Radical, Rational or Both?

“We must start putting America first.”-Rep. Ferguson email, 5-3-21

I recently got an email from Congressman Drew Ferguson entitled “President Biden’s Radical First 100 Days”. I agree with the Congressman on that title. There has been a radical change since Trump… but it’s undeniably been a change for the better, as detailed below.Biden has shown true leadership, attempting to heal the nation, rather than dividing us by tweeting negative things about anyone who disagrees with him.

Further, Ferguson incorrectly posits that Biden is not “listening to the will of the American people” and turning “American into a socialist country”.And the Congressman incorrectly states, without providing any facts, that “big government will not grow our economy”.

He simply seems to be parroting the GOP party line, trying unsuccessfully to portray Biden as Bernie Sanders in a mild-mannered disguise. Ferguson also ignores basic economics and American history as well, which proves that government investment always spurs business growth and job creation.

The facts prove that Biden is listening very closely to the people who elected him and the American voters in general. The very broad problem areas that most concern US citizens are, covid/disease- 26%; govt. leadership- 19%; race-19%; unifying the US- 8%; ethics- 4%; immigration- 3% and environmental issues-3%. (https://news.gallup.com/poll/1675/most-important-problem.aspx). More specifically, the economy (80%); the pandemic (78%); jobs (67%); terrorism (63%); improving our political system (62%); healthcare cost reduction (58%); stabilizing social security (54%); improving education (53%); poverty (53%); race (49%); crime (47%); improving criminal justice system (46%); reducing the deficit(42%); immigration (39%); climate change(38%) and strengthening the military (37%). (https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/01/28/economy-and-covid-19-top-the-publics-policy-agenda-for-2021/).

Biden has already directly addressed the most important of these issues via the American Rescue Plan which spurs economic growth, provides assistance to those hit hardest by the pandemic and ensures the funding needed to cut COVID cases and bring the epidemic under control. Unfortunately, all of this was done without any help from Rep. Ferguson and his GOP buddies in the House I might add. All of them voted against this very popular (even with GOP voters) bill, designed to help the American people recover from the worst healthcare disaster in a century.

Signed in March, this law provided funding for COVID relief efforts, including vaccines. But it also contained funding for small business development and education. Plus, it provided for sorely needed items like extended unemployment payments, child tax credits to help hard hit families, food assistance and direct payments to citizens.

As for the “radical” first 100 days, here’s a few examples of why there’s a radical difference between Trump and Biden:

  • Taxes- Trump passed a massive tax cut which went primarily to the wealthy and big business, creating massive debt. Biden wants to raise taxes on people making over $400,000 annually and corporations to pay for popular programs rather than increasing the deficit.
  • Government spending- Trump increased military spending dramatically during his term, with much of it going overseas to help other nations. He did nothing to help needed infrastructure here and never got Mexico to pay for the border wall. As his next big project, Biden chooses to push for vital infrastructure spending right here at home, creating real jobs for working class people.
  • Bi-partisanship- Trump constantly and viciously attacked Democrats and anyone who did not pledge loyalty to him. Biden calls for co-operation and respect for those who disagree with him.

If we look at the facts versus partisan rhetoric, it’s undeniable that Biden has had one of the most successful first 100 days of any recent President. Whether he remains successful will depend on the GOP leadership changing its ways and putting the needs of Americans before partisanship.

“The Impact of Trump’s legacy of hatred”; Newnan Times Herald; 5-11-21

The Impact of Trump’s legacy of hatred 

Every President has a unique legacy that he leaves the nation. Racial, ethnic and sexual preference hatred have always been with us. Unfortunately, the Trump Presidency greatly exacerbated the pre-existing problem. Trump’s legacy is division and heightened hatred, culminating in the 1-6-21 violent white supremacist insurrection at our capital…a riot which is still defended by many on the right as being justified.  

In fact, per the FBI, hate crimes have increased nationwide during Trump’s term of office. For example, in 2016 there were 6,063 hate crimes nationally. But in 2017, the number grew 17% (to 7,106) and stayed at that level through 2019 (2020 figures have not yet been released). It should be noted that this level of hate crimes has not been seen since before the Obama Presidency. 

As documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), hate groups are currently in almost every state, including liberal bastions like California and NY (https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map ). The SPLC, located in Montgomery, does a fine job of reporting on these groups (see the SPLC report, “Hate and Extremism in 2020”). 

Closer to home, the SPLC lists 29 hate groups in Georgia. They range from white supremacists like the KKK and the Patriot Front to black extremists like the Revolutionary Black Panther Party and the United Nuwaupians.  

Much smaller surrounding states like, Alabama and South Carolina, have nearly as many hate groups, 20 each. Tennessee has even more (34) than Georgia. Florida is larger than us but has an astounding 68 hate groups. 

The past is gone, although Trump remains the dominant force in GOP politics and will for the foreseeable future due to the GOP leadership’s lack of courage (the exception being Rep. Liz Chaney). The question at this point becomes “what can be done to lessen hatred and prejudice in the US?” 

I watch Fox, PBS and CNN. I also receive both right-wing and left-wing emailed newsletters. I have some problems with both the left and right in regard to being objective. However, the ones that are on the right are definitely more extremist than those on the left. 

Most of my friends are seniors and white, though not all. Most get these right-wing emails, watch Fox and simply parrot their extremist, non-factual talking points. As one close friend, a former Atlanta area Fire Chief, told me, “I don’t watch those other channels because Fox is the only one that I believe.” 

He’s a very good, kind, religious man that I’ve known for 20 years. But it’s no wonder that he and people like him still don’t believe that the 2020 election was fair or that Biden is our legitimate President. Or that right wing extremism is a major threat to our democracy and antifa is not. They have been brainwashed by Tucker Carlson, Alex Jones and right-wing opinion media. 

There’s a constant drumbeat in these media sources revolving around Black Lives Matter and Antifa violence. Right wing extremist violence is completely ignored. But that’s not the only instance of misleading readers. 

For example, there was a recent article in “Beltway”, a well-known right-wing newsletter. It purported in a blaring headline to have undeniable proof the Trump won the election (note: most folks never read beyond the headline). What was this “proof”? The fact that Mr. Showman Trump had higher TV ratings than Biden on his speeches. 

I’m afraid that until something can be done to correct the misinformation coming out on the right, we will continue to have hatred and division splitting Americans. And, without violating the First Amendment, I’m uncertain as to what that “something” should be. 

But here are a few suggestions to start on the road to national recovery: 

-Every American needs to get news a variety of sources, not just the left or the right, and analyze information for accuracy; 

-Democratic leaders must stop caving into the more outrageous positions taken by the squad and others (for example, Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic statements); 

-The GOP leadership must take a stand and educate their base rather than simply refusing to comment on misinformation coming from x-President Trump; 

-White citizens, especially seniors need to learn more about the history of black people in America and stop assuming all black men are thugs; 

-Black leaders must differentiate between clear cases of murder by cop (like the G. Floyd case) and instances whereby police use of force is unfortunate but needed (M. Bryant in Ohio). 

We can all hope that with a less confrontational President in the White House things will now get better. But it’s up to all of us to speed that process along. 

“Florida and Healthcare”; Like the Dew progressive journal; 5-7-21

Biden’s party is holding onto a very slim margin in Congress. If he does not play his cards right, Pelosi and Schumer will be replaced by McConnell and McCarthy in 2022. And the Grim Reaper would make sure that no Biden bill was ever passed in 2023 and 2024. So, after his current infrastructure effort is concluded, Biden should look closely at national opinion polls before moving forward and proposing other legislative initiatives. Let’s take healthcare, for example. Certainly, there’s a need to expand coverage. In Florida alone, there are 833,000 medically uninsured. Only Texas has more residents without coverage (https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/the-coverage-gap-uninsured-poor-adults-in-states-that-do-not-expand-medicaid). The only question is “how can we best get them covered?”. With dozens of single payer op-eds in various papers and magazines across the nation, I’m one of the more prolific Medicare for All advocates. I strongly believe that long term we should completely do away with private insurance. It’s ineffective and private insurance companies have 12% in overhead costs versus 2% for Medicare.  And Medicare for All is a very popular topic among progressives. But I’m also a pragmatist. Enough folks in the middle of the political spectrum are not yet sold on the premise that Medicare for All will reduce their costs while preserving high quality care. In my opinion, it definitely will do so. But the public must first be educated so that pressure can be placed on national legislators, including what little is left of the moderate wing of the GOP.  Politically, Medicare for All would be a poor short-term item to push versus a public option, which still preserves private insurance and will not alienate those on corporate plans. However, on the technical side, the public option has “cherry-picking” issues due to adverse selection that will cause overall Medicare costs to rise longer term.  So, a better (although much more limited) option for short-term coverage expansion might be for the Federal government to assume 100% of Medicaid costs. The Feds currently pick up 90% and that gives red states like Florida an easy out by saying that they can’t afford to expand. But DeSantis can’t say that if the Feds pick up the full cost. Better yet from a solely political standpoint, aggressively address excessive drug costs, something that worries liberals, moderates and conservatives (especially seniors). Trump repeatedly said he would act on drug costs but never did. For a start, Biden should have Schumer introduce a bill giving Medicare the right to negotiate drug pricing. GOP Senators like Marco Rubio and Rick Scott would have major difficulty voting against a drug cost reduction bill of this sort. And if they did, it would come back to haunt them at election time. Biden can move “big” and illustrate the difference between a showman who cares only about himself and a real national leader who cares about our citizens. But he must also move wisely and only tackle items that have wide public acceptance.

“Biden and refugees”; Fayette News; 5-5-21

Biden and refugees 

“Everybody’s had to fight to be free. You see you don’t have to live like a refugee.”- Tom Petty 

Petty was correct. Refugees have a tough life. As someone whose father and paternal grandparents were unwanted refugees who came to America in 1938, I comprehend the issue more than most Americans. More on that below. 

As for Biden, he has generally been doing well regarding keeping the diverse Democratic Party and its progressive base on his side. For his efforts, he is receiving high marks in the overall popularity category. However, immigration is his weak spot. While 71% of Democratic Americans think he’s doing well, he only gets positive marks from 11% of GOPers and 36% of independents (https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2021-04/2021%20Reuters%20Tracking%20-%20Core%20Political%20Presidential%20Approval%20Tracker%2004%2015%202021.pdf). 

The problem is not a simple one to either understand or fix and, as is true of many of the issues facing Biden, is intertwined with the previous Administration’s regressive immigration policies. Moreover, his current wavering, unclear stance on refuges and immigration is making no one happy. Especially not progressives, since his latest decision to temporarily keep the refuge immigrant quota at an historically low 15,000-person level (as established by Trump) at least until May 15, 2021. Based on a State Department recommendation, Congress had been considering 62,500 refugees annually as the quota. 

Refugees are defined as people, “who are unable or unwilling to return home because they fear serious harm” (https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-and-asylum).  As opposed to undocumented immigrants, these particular refugees have been fully vetted by US authorities in their country of origin and pose no security threat. They are simply awaiting the official decision to let them enter the US to escape their homeland’s violence.  

Stated Mark Hetfield, president of the HIAS resettlement agency, “One can’t help but guess that they (politicians) are conflating the refugee issue with what is happening at the border with the refugee program, which is a real disservice.” (https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/biden-keeps-us-refugee-cap-15000-rather-than-raise-it-official-2021-04-16/) In layman’s language, Biden is trying to limit any political damage that will occur to him and the Democratic Party due to him raising the quota. He’s afraid that the GOP will deviously equate the immigration issues at the border with the refuge quota issue and campaign on it in 2022, although the problems are really separate and unrelated. 

Biden’s path out of this morass is murky. However, I would recommend that he, a. clarify legal refugee immigration and quotas, so Americans truly understand it, b. quickly devise strong short-term policies that slow down border crossings, including working with other nations to slow down the traffic, and c. appoint a bi-partisan commission to recommend a consensus long-term US immigration policy. 

“Free speech, censorship and the Constitution”; Newnan Times Herald; 5-3-21

Free speech, censorship and the constitution 

“This Supreme Court decision is a huge win for the First Amendment and protection of speech on college campuses.”- Rep. Drew Ferguson 

Rep. Ferguson was referring to the little known Uzuegbunam v Preczewski case (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-968_8nj9.pdf). It was recently decided by SCOTUS, 9-1 in favor of a Georgia Gwinnett College student’s right to free speech, even if the damages sought are only nominal and the school’s policy has changed. And Ferguson was 100% correct; it is a big win for all Americans who are against censorship, regardless of political or religious affiliation. 

Essentially, the case boiled down to the issue of whether or not Gwinnett could restrict Uzuegbunam from proselytizing on campus, including handing out LDS religious materials, if it “disturbs the peace and/or comfort of persons.” Gwinnett had complaints and campus security stopped Uzuegbunam, threatening “disciplinary action”. Later, Gwinnett refused to give him a permit to speak and hand out literature in a campus “free speech zone.” When the case was filed, Gwinnett did away with these policies and then argued that the suit should be disallowed. 

As for myself, I believe religion is something that is personal to each individual. And I do not like proselytizing which invades my space. However, I still support the right of other Americans to speak about their religion in public if they so choose. And that includes Christians, Moslems, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Wiccans and anyone else. But this case goes far beyond religious free speech on campus. It relates to censorship coming from both the left and right. 

Far left censorship has recently become an issue at numerous other American universities. The best example is debate regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation.As someone who firmly believes in an equitable two state solution, I see fault with both the Palestinians (especially terroristic Hamas) and the Israelis (especially Netanyahu’s right wingers) on this issue. Both sides should be able to express their viewpoints on our campuses. However, pro-Palestine campus protestors do not let both positions be publicly expressed. In undemocratic fashion, they have prevented debate from occurring on numerous campuses including UNC, Duke, SFSU, Columbia, UC Irvine, U of Va. and elsewhere. 

Censorship coming from the right is also at work in our society. Colin Kaepernick was the star quarterback for the San Francesco 49ers. When the National Anthem was played before a game during the 2016 season, he chose to kneel in solidarity with black people who have been wronged by police. President Trump then stated that athletes who did not stand during the National Anthem should be fired. 

Kaepernick became a free agent after the season was over and NFL owners decided to censor him, punishing him for exercising his free speech rights. Although many teams were and still are in need of a fine quarterback, he has yet to be signed. He has now reached the age (33) where it would be increasingly unlikely. Kaepernick has become a victim of right wing “cancel culture” simply for expressing his free speech rights under the Constitution. 

Over the last decade, our nation has become more tribal. Free speech has become a casualty of these right-left divisions. Regardless of our personal politics, we must all push back against stifling the non-violent views of others from being heard.