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“Add Native Americans To Team Trump’s List”: Casual, Everyday Racism Should Be Shocking, Not Routine

It can be challenging to keep track of every American constituency Donald Trump and his campaign have offended with insulting language. At various points, the Republican presidential candidate and his operation have alienated women, Latinos, African Americans, Muslims, veterans, and people with disabilities, among others.

But in case it wasn’t obvious before, Native Americans certainly belong on the same list.

But while Trump was hammering trade and his should-be allies-turned-adversaries, it was his opening act that picked up the mantle of attack against Democrats, specifically Elizabeth Warren. Taking a cue from Trump’s nickname of “Pocahontas” for Sen. Warren, conservative New England radio host Howie Carr took the moniker one step further during the pre-rally show.

“You know Elizabeth Warren, right?” Carr said, tapping his hand over his mouth in a mock tribal chant. The crowd loved it, some joining in with chants of their own.

Slate’s Josh Voorhees raised an important point about all of this: “In the big bucket of Trump-sanctioned racism, a mock war cry from a guy who introduced the guy who introduced the candidate is but a drop. Still, if this were anyone but Trump we were talking about, he or she would be pressured to condemn the remarks. Trump, though, has dulled everyone’s senses with a year’s worth of controversy, so this barely registers.”

And that’s a shame. Casual, everyday racism should be shocking, not routine.

It’s also true that for all the media chatter about the new, more mature Trump campaign operation – we’ve heard quite a bit about an alleged “pivot” and “Trump 2.0” – evidence of the purported shift doesn’t appear to exist.

But Carr’s ugly attempt at racial humor also serves as a reminder that when it comes to Native Americans, Team Trump’s record is tough to defend.

The subject has come up before, following Trump’s attacks on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) family heritage, but it goes much further. The Huffington Post reported this week, for example, “Prior to being the GOP frontrunner, Trump was a real estate tycoon who was trying to hack it as a casino magnate. And while the LA Times reported that he would court Native American tribes when it worked to his advantage, he also routinely targeted their casino operations in hostile, racially provocative terms.”

Trump accused the Native-American-run casinos of being fronts for the mob to get unfair tax breaks and avoid anti-corruption regulations. But he didn’t stop there. He used racial epithets and funded secretive campaigns to drum up opposition to those casinos. Like with Warren, he questioned whether the main operators were actually Native American at all.

The most famous instance of this came during congressional testimony Trump gave in 1993, when he triumphantly declared: “They don’t look like Indians to me and they don’t look like Indians to Indians.”

Trump would go on to tell radio host Don Imus that same year that he would “perhaps become an Indian myself” if he felt that it might give him an economic advantage. “I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations,” he said. Imus concurred: “A couple of these Indians up in Connecticut look like Michael Jordan, frankly.”

I’m sure there are minority groups that Trump hasn’t insulted with offensive language, but it’s getting more difficult to find them.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 30, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Native Americans, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Everybody Over 40 Has A Little Back Pain”: Watch Out, Grandpa! Republicans Are Coming For Your Social Security

Hey, Rand Paul, why don’t you tell us how you really feel?

Last week, the junior senator from Kentucky mocked people on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD), suggesting their ailments are not worthy:

What I tell people is, if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting your disability check. Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club… Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts. Everybody over 40 has a little back pain. [Huffington Post]

This is just the prelude to the GOP’s plan to roll back the whole of Social Security. Paul’s remarks are part of a PR campaign to portray the program as riddled with lazy deadbeats and cheats.

Don’t believe me? Earlier this month, the Republican Congress adopted a rule change regarding the disability portion of Social Security. It has occasionally run short of money, which last happened in 1994 and will happen again in late 2016. Typically, the disability side is topped up with money from the (much larger) general Social Security funds. But Republicans have changed the rules to prevent this, which means disability payments will be cut by a fifth when the money runs out.

Now, they’re beginning to argue this is a great time to “reform” the system as a whole:

One of the co-sponsors of the rule change, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), said that his intention was to “force us to look for a long-term solution” to the disability program. But the rule itself says it will allow a revenue transfer if the “overall health” of Social Security, encompassing both the retirement and disability programs, is improved. That’s what Democrats are warning about, but some conservative analysts who have consulted with House staffers are also hoping that the GOP uses the threat of benefits cuts to go big. [Talking Points Memo]

If you examine the history of conservative animosity towards Social Security, as Dylan Scott does in a great piece, the long game here is obvious. Conservatives hated the program when it started, tried to abolish it for a generation, rolled it back slightly when it became firmly politically entrenched, and tried to privatize it in the Bush years. Conservative activists have been plotting this move for years.

The political entrenchment of Social Security explains the slyness of their tactics today. Social Security is one of the most popular programs in the country, and attempting to privatize it was a political disaster for Bush. Thus, passing bill after bill scrapping the program altogether a la ObamaCare would be committing political suicide. Much better to use a manufactured funding crisis to force a complicated political bargain that most people don’t understand. Better still to maneuver Democrats into accepting cuts, and then blame them for it and run against them on the issue.

Let’s look at the policy. Are conservatives right about SSDI being riddled with fraud, as an episode of This American Life squirmily argued two years ago? They are not. As a Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysis shows, the increase in disability payments is mainly due to demographic factors. There is little fraud in the program (in reality, a large majority of applicants are rejected). The program doesn’t pay out much per beneficiary. And the general Social Security fund can top up the disability fund with only a tiny overall effect.

How about Social Security in general? Contrary to Republican anti-tax zealotry, the problem with Social Security is that it is not nearly generous enough. American retirement security used to rest on pensions, the 401(k) system, and Social Security. The first of those is almost dead, the second has been an utter failure, and the third is simply not big enough to provide a genuine retirement for most people. Boosting the program substantially would be simple and good policy.

Many years ago, it was widely accepted that as our country got richer, we could afford to work less as a whole. Disabled people could be kept out of poverty, and old people could retire. But conservatives are increasingly abandoning this idea. There is no reason Paul’s logic about the disabled couldn’t be applied to retirees, too. Can your grandma stack shelves at Walmart? Maybe she should, the lazy parasite.

In reality, we can easily afford to boost Social Security. Indeed, we can easily afford to eliminate poverty altogether. That we don’t is a political choice, nothing more.


By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, January 20, 2015

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Rand Paul, Republicans, Social Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Uh Oh, Republicans Are Trying to ‘Protect’ Social Security Again”: A Misleading Argument To Tee Up Benefit Cuts

Whenever Republicans start talking about protecting Social Security, warning bells go off in my head.

Remember President George W. Bush’s ill-fated plan in 2005 to privatize Social Security? It was pitched as a way to protect Americans from what the then-president and his supporters falsely claimed was the system’s impending collapse.

The bells have started up again. Buried in the new rules being adopted by the House Republican majority for the current session of Congress is one that the drafters say will “protect” Social Security retirement benefits from being raided to pay for Social Security disability benefits. What this boils down to is using a misleading argument to tee up benefit cuts.

This bulletin from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains the ruse in detail.

In brief, Social Security has several parts. The biggest part, by far, is the retirement system. Another smaller part, Social Security Disability Insurance, pays benefits to disabled workers.

On eleven different occasions in the past, Congress has allocated money from one system to the other whenever one of the funds was running short. Such shifts have historically been noncontroversial, as well they should be: They are basically housekeeping maneuvers.

The new Republican rule, however, bars the House from doing a straightforward shift of  money from the retirement system to the disability system. That could cause havoc. The disability system is currently strained, for two main reasons. One, disability claims rise with the aging of the population. Two, a tax change in 1983 was only partially reversed in later years, leaving the disability system underfunded. If money is not shifted from the retirement system to the disability system, severe cuts to disability benefits will be needed starting in 2016.

In their new rule, Republicans say they are protecting the retirement system from being robbed. What they don’t say – because it is the truth – is that reallocating money from the retirement system to the disability system would put the disability fund on a firm footing while barely denting the retirement fund, for the simple reason that the retirement fund is far bigger than the disability fund.

A reasonable reallocation could enable both the disability system and the retirement system to pay full benefits through 2033.

That is plenty of time for reasonable politicians to enact modest reforms in taxes and benefits that could ensure the solvency of both systems well into the 21st century.

The real challenge is to shield the systems from deliberate destruction by today’s Republicans until cooler heads prevail.


By: Teresa Tritch, Taking Note, The Editorial Pages Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, January 7, 2014

January 11, 2015 Posted by | Republicans, Social Security | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Disservice”: The Supreme Court Would Prefer People With Disabilities Receive Care From Disgruntled, Low-Wage, High-Turnover Workers

By a 5-4 decision, the usual conservative Supreme Court majority today struck a blow against public-sector unions by ruling for the petitioners in a case called Harris v. Quinn.  Most of the press coverage focuses on the worrisome implications for collective bargaining. I have little to add in that conversation, significant as it surely is. But I am sorry to see this decision for some more specific reasons, as well.

This particular case unfolds outside my door, in Chicago. Pamela Harris is a direct care worker who sued the state of Illinois over the way it handles collective bargaining arrangements and union dues. My family has used the type of services provided through the Illinois Home Services Program under dispute. My brother-in-law Vincent—who lives with intellectual disabilities and some related health challenges caused by something called fragile X syndrome—receives services every day from unionized direct care workers, in his group home and in his workshop.

With its decision in Harris, the Supreme Court has torpedoed a practical and equitable partnership. People with disabilities could receive the in-home personal assistance they need. The men and women who perform this important work could receive a fair day’s wage for the work they do. Now that arrangement—and the well-being of both groups—is in jeopardy.

Some background on the case: In 2003, the governor of Illinois declared that direct care workers were public employees, because they received much of their pay directly from the state, through its Medicaid program. This made it possible for them to unionize and to engage in collective bargaining with the state of Illinois, which they did by electing to have the Service Employees International Union represent them. The state negotiates with SEIU over what to pay workers, much as it would for any other set of public employees. Home health care workers can choose whether or not to join the union. But even those workers who opt not to join must pay an administrative fee, since they benefit from the higher pay that SEIU negotiates on their behalf. Or at least that’s how it was before Harris and some other workers filed a lawsuit, claiming the obligation was unfair, and the Supreme Court sided with her.

Put aside, for the moment, the debate over union dues and fees. There’s no question that these collective bargaining arrangements are important—or that they’ve made a huge difference. And here’s why they are especially important here. Illinois has traditionally ranked near the very bottom in national rankings of disability services.  Not coincidentally, Illinois has also been subject to nine-figure lawsuits and consent decrees that reflect our troubled history of over-reliance on state institutions in the care of people with disabilities.

Illinois, like most other states, has a history of shamefully under-paying men and women who provide home- and community-based care.  In 2012, the national median wage of personal care aides had declined to $9.57 per hour. Ironically, direct care workers are also extremely likely to be uninsured. According to materials from the Care Campaign, an advocacy group for direct care workers, the average direct-support wage in Illinois is $9.35 per hour.

Governor Pat Quinn, to his great credit, is trying to address both of the above concerns. Rectifying them requires intricate compromises among many stakeholders. The state has an interest in high-quality, economical services that meet its legal obligations to individuals with disabilities.  Direct care workers require minimally decent wages to support themselves and their families.

Individuals with disabilities and their families have a big stake in this, too. They—we–require a stable and motivated group of direct care workers to perform important and difficult work. The alternative is to receive services from a disgruntled, low-wage high-turnover group of workers who are unlikely to provide competent and humane care. We consumers know first-hand why these issues are important. We know our great human debt to the men and women we trust so intimately to support people we love.

Direct care work will never pay particularly well. Yet the partnership under dispute provided a fair and practical mechanism through which workers could bargain for decent wages and working conditions. It’s noteworthy that many of the nation’s most prominent disability rights advocacy organizations signed an amicus brief supporting the state of Illinois in this lawsuit. Most are now very disappointed.

Now that this partnership has been overturned by the Supreme Court, our state, direct care workers, and individuals with disabilities face a difficult choice. Direct caregivers can simply be hired and supervised as traditional public employees. This would deprive individuals with disabilities of the ability to select, supervise, and hire their own caregivers.  We can also shift a cumbersome management burden onto people with disabilities and their families, while depriving direct care workers of the collective bargaining mechanisms they seek. Neither option seems particularly fair or practical for anyone involved.

I lack the expertise to judge the broader ramifications of this case or its legal niceties. I do know that it disserved the people my family and so many others trust every day to care for our loved ones. It disserved us, too.


By: Harol Pollack, The Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago; The New Republic, June 30, 2014

July 1, 2014 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Supreme Court, Unions | , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Stuff Made Up About Obamacare”: A Nasty Ideological And Racial Undertone To Bobby Jindal’s Latest Campaign

It’s been obvious from the beginning that a big part of the GOP strategy for demonizing Obamacare has been to convince existing beneficiaries of federal health programs that ACA coverage would come out of their hides. Thus the constant efforts to convince Medicare enrollees that ACA was financed by “Medicare cuts” (not at all true with the exception of the reductions in super-subsidies offered to the Bush-era conservative pet rock of Medicare Advantage policies offered through private insurers). There’s also a nasty ideological and even racial undertone to this campaign aimed at white middle-class retirees who view their Medicare benefits as earned (via both payroll tax contributions and a lifetime of work), as opposed to the “welfare” being offered to those people supported by Medicaid or Obamacare.

But leave it to Bobby Jindal to come up with a line of attack that pits existing Medicaid beneficiaries against those who would qualify for coverage if, over his dead body, the ACA’s Medicaid expansion were to be enacted in Louisiana. TPM’s Dylan Scott has the story:

Engaged in all-out war with the liberal group over a pro-Obamacare billboard, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has accused the organization — and liberals in general — of endorsing discrimination against the disabled through their support of the federal health care reform law and its Medicaid expansion.

“Liberal groups like won’t say one word about caring for individuals with disabilities, or how Obamacare prioritizes coverage of childless adults ahead of the most vulnerable,” Jindal wrote in an op-ed in the Shreveport Times last Thursday. “They just want to intimidate states into accepting Obamacare’s massive new spending programs.”

What does Bobby mean by “prioritizing” coverage of childless adults? Simply that expanded coverage comes with a higher federal match rate than is available for traditional Medicaid (not high enough, of course, to convince ideologically motivated Republicans, especially in the South, to execute an expansion that in many cases would represent a fiscal windfall for state governments while significantly reducing the ranks of the uninsured).

How, exactly, does that hurt people with disabilities, or others currently qualifying for Medicaid? The short answer is that it doesn’t, as Scott explains with some help from experts:

[T]here are a few huge problems with Jindal’s rationale, which effectively undermine the whole line of attack. First, some disabled people could actually qualify for health coverage under the Medicaid expansion, according to MaryBeth Musumeci, associate director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

“People with disabilities can be within the new expansion group,” she said. “The ACA provides the opportunity for some people with disabilities to qualify for Medicaid who never qualified before. Their incomes, while still low, could have been above the very, very low limits states had set or they may not have been eligible at all if they fell into the category of single, childless adults. So it creates an expanded opportunity for people with disabilities to gain coverage.”

Second, Obamacare should have no policy bearing on the traditional Medicaid program. Federal funding for the traditionally eligible population remains exactly the same, and the states retain the same flexibility to manage their programs as existed prior to the law. The ACA brings a new population into the program, but there is no policy reason that it would lead to “discrimination” — as Jindal calls it — or any other detrimental effects for disabled people enrolled in the traditional program.

“I think that’s right,” Musumeci said when asked by TPM if the Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion should have no effect on traditional Medicaid. “What the Medicaid expansion essentially does is it creates a new eligibility category. Like any other time Congress has expanded eligibility of the program, it is adding statutory authority to cover this new group of people.”

“But it’s built into the same underlying Medicaid program. States still have all of the flexibility that they previously had in terms of how they structure their care delivery system, their benefits packages, and all of those things.”

It would be interesting to know how well people with disabilities, and other current Medicaid beneficiaries, would fare in Louisiana if the national Republican “reform” of Medicaid, a block grant that reduced federal funding over time, were to be enacted. Let’s hope we don’t find out. But in the meantime, the “prioritization” argument against the Medicaid expansion is just another effort to frighten one group of safety net beneficiaries they have a stake in excluding others. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from self-styled conservative Christian warriors like Bobby Jindal.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Politica Animal, March 20, 2014

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Bobby Jindal, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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