Monday, January 16, 2017

“Hands off Obamacare, Medicaid and Medicare”

On Sunday afternoon more than 20 people from New Braunfels and other parts of Comal County rallied in support of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Medicare outside Congressman Lamar Smith’s office. All the participants are worried that access to healthcare will be lost for themselves or family members or friends if Republicans in Congress pass legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act without even having a replacement for it.

It is widely understood that the Republican plan to convert Medicare to a voucher will jeopardize the health and lives of many seniors. The problem is there is no guarantee that they’ll be able to acquire comparable insurance even with higher premiums since many of those on Medicare are much sicker than the average population. Since insurers make their profits by avoiding the sickest people some will find healthcare unattainable.

Don’t forget that a significant fraction of Medicare participants, like my wife, aren’t retirees, they’re people who are totally disabled and frequently unable to acquire health insurance on the individual market at any price. Even the Texas high risk pool didn’t want her and pushed her off to Medicare.

Let’s not forget about Medicaid, Texas Republicans have already cut reimbursement rates for some of the most vulnerable children in Texas. Now those children can’t get the physical therapy and other services they need to be even remotely healthy or self sufficient.


Lamar Smith needs to be told “Hands off Obamacare, Medicaid and Medicare”.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Texas Cities Can Make a Living Wage a Reality

Walmart, McDonald’s and other low wage employers not only take advantage of their employees they also take advantage of us the tax payer even if we don’t shop their. They do it by paying wages so low that their employees qualify for and collect federal benefits like housing assistance, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program aka food stamps. That’s because the federal minimum wage is no where near a living wage. Even in low cost areas of low cost state like Texas a 40 hour a week job at minimum wage won’t pay rent, utilities and put food on the table let alone address health care and other living expenses.

I’ll be you’re as sick as I am of our tax dollars subsidizing their profits but with the election of Donald Trump and the continuing Republican majorities in the House and Senate it is unlikely that the federal minimum wage will be raised in the next four years. The Texas governor and legislature are also Republican controlled leaving little chance that Texas will raise its minimum wage. Worse state law prohibits cities from raising their own minimum wage rates.

Cities like San Antonio and San Marcos have taken action to work around this ridiculous prohibition. In San Antonio city employees are paid a minimum of $13 per hour and the city requires all contractors to pay their employees a minimum of $13 per hour as well. That leaves an awful lot of people out of the benefit of higher wages but it’s a start. In San Marcos the city recently passed an ordinance that offers tax benefits to employers who pay at least $15 per hour.

There is nothing stopping the city of Seguin or the Seguin ISD from setting a minimum wage for all contractors doing business with them. There are other ways to increase the value of low wage workers earnings such as requiring that all employers in the city provide five days paid sick leave for every employee. In reality that actually benefits everyone since then the sick person doesn’t infect the rest of the staff or their customers. I don’t know about you but I prefer the restaurant worker handling my food to be healthy so they don’t contaminate my meal and make me sick too.

Walmart, McDonalds and other large chains often manage labor costs by shifting schedules around so that employees don’t have same schedule from one week to the next making it very difficult to plan child care, meet with children’s teachers, or see a doctor. Fast food chains are notorious for requiring their employees to work a few hours then punch out for three or four hours and then work a few more, or simply sending employees home early often preventing them from working even close to full time hours. Cities like Seguin can require that all employers in the city limits provide clarity and certainty to workers schedules.


There are ways we can make a difference at the local level but it won’t happen if you and I don’t demand it of our local officials. We must speak to our city council members and the trustees of our school districts urging them to take the actions they can to make our communities better places to work and live.

Published in the Seguin Gazette January 6, 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

Trump and cabinet full of conflicts of interest

The big reason that elected and appointed officials at both the state and federal level are supposed to disclose their business interests is to allow the public to recognize conflicts of interest which in many instances is enough to prevent them. Texas has state disclosure regulations and so do most cities. Congress passed and President Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge or STOCK Act in 2012 which makes it illegal for federal officials, whether elected or appointed such as cabinet members to profit from their knowledge of upcoming legislation or regulations or other information not available to the general public.

For roughly the last 40 years presidents have thought it appropriate to put their holdings into what is called a blind trust. That’s essentially like a mutual fund where the shareholder doesn’t know which stocks are owned. In this way a president can’t know how the decisions he makes or the agreements he signs will affect his personal finances so they shouldn’t affect the decision and he can’t profit from advance knowledge.

Donald Trump continues to refuse to produce his tax returns which are one way the American people could determine for themselves whether or not he takes undue advantage of a president’s far ranging access to secret information. Nor will he put his assets in a blind trust. Instead he says his children and managers will handle business for him but he’ll still know what companies he is invested in and what if any affect his decisions will have on those businesses before anyone else.

Last week in what appears to be an effort to curry favor with Trump the government of Kuwait has cancelled their reservation with a competing business and changed the location of an event to a Trump owned hotel.

While on the campaign trail Trump bragged that he knew how to game the system and therefore he knew how to clean it up but his actions so far suggest he has no intention of doing so. Trump’s nomination of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to be the next Secretary of State, a position in which he will have numerous illegal conflicts of interest given his holdings in Exxon stocks and Exxon’s business dealings with Russia among other countries is just one reason for concern. Another problematic Trump nominee is Congressman Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services who has traded stock in at least forty health care companies while on the House committee that regulates them. More worrying is that close Trump advisor Newt Gingrich has proposed that Trump can simply pardon his cabinet members for the crimes of conflict of interest and continue as if they were legal to begin with.

Many people voted for Trump in the belief that he wouldn’t tolerate this kind of gaming the system but it seems he’s already letting them down. If you’re one of those people you certainly have a right to be angry. There are other examples of him backing away from campaign promises such as I’ll “drain the swamp”, “build a wall” and “lock her up”. I foresee more to come, so if you’re having buyer’s remorse now or feel it later the Resistance will welcome you.


 Published in the Seguin Gazette December 29, 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Revolution may well be in the works

A little over two years ago billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer wrote an essay for the online magazine Politico in which he argues that “the pitchforks are coming for the plutocrats”. He says that people like himself, Bill Gates and Donald Trump had better heed history and take action to relieve the societal stresses created by wealth inequality and poverty soon or like the French and Russian revolutions the masses will become fed up and take it out on the people who have abused them for so long. Hanauer will tell you he’s not brilliant, he says he was a mediocre student and has no technical background, he just has a higher than average tolerance for risk and a knack for seeing where things are going a little sooner than the other guy.

Hanauer compared revolutions to bankruptcy in that both slowly move toward the cliff and then suddenly occur seemingly without warning. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a 1966 60 Minutes interview “I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.” Revolutions are messy and violent and everyone suffers, most of all those who are already suffering as the few systems that help them fend off starvation inevitably breakdown.

It’s been argued that acting on insight similar to Hanauer’s is what has held the country together many times over the last 240 years; one example being Teddy Roosevelt and his efforts to restrain the worst excesses of capitalism. Now that a minority of voters has managed to elect Donald Trump I fear that the chances of this nation’s leaders acting on enlightened self-interest to restrain capitalism’s natural tendency toward monopoly and increasing profits at any cost have been dramatically reduced such that we’ll see a return to the strife and violence of the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Efforts to right the ship like Moral Monday protests led by Rev. William Barber in North Carolina are modeled after the successes of the Civil Rights era. After this election many argued that it was successful in that Gov. McCrory was ousted and therefore a model for further efforts around the nation. Unfortunately the Republican led legislature there failed to get the message and instead set about stripping the governor-elect of virtually all power. As Fredrick Douglass said so eloquently “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”


As Nick Hanauer pointed out revolution creeps up on you, we don’t know when it will happen or what will appear to be the precipitating event but we seem to be moving ever closer. Isn’t it time for our leaders to behave like Teddy Roosevelt and once again act relieve the pressure before it’s too late?

Published in the Seguin Gazette December 23, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Trump Supporters Must Denounce White Supremacists like Dylann Roof

A radical Christian white supremacist went on trial last week for the nine murders he committed June 17, 2015. That’s not the phrasing you’re likely to hear from ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox. There you’ll hear that Dylann Roof is accused of 33 counts of hate crimes for the murders he committed that night at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. You’ll probably hear or read that he wanted to start a race war but unlike the Muslims who killed so many in San Bernadino later that year no one wants to talk about how Roof was radicalized.

Now think about how many Americans react to such violence perpetrated by Muslims, too many of us want to throw them all out of the country. President-elect Trump on the campaign trail said he thought it would be a good idea to register all Muslims. We all know how well that worked out for German Jews and Americans of Japanese ancestry. Many Americans screech that if Muslims don’t believe in such violence then their religious leaders should speak out against it. I don’t hear them calling for Christian churches like the one Roof attended to speak out in condemnation.

Analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center suggests that Roof was a reader and commenter on The Daily Stormer, a white nationalist news website. Roof cited the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens as his gateway to white nationalism. The Council’s president Earl Holt issued a statement saying that Roof had some "legitimate grievances" against black people. Harold Covington, the founder of the Northwest Front called the attack "a preview of coming attractions". These groups like to refer to themselves as the alt-right as if they’re just another variant of conservatism and the media generally lets them get away with it.

Roof’s horrendous acts occurred well before Trump began his run for the presidency yet he openly courted the alt-right/white nationalist vote and their campaign donations. Since last year numerous media sources have reported on drastic increases hate crimes yet the soon to be leader of the most powerful nation on earth has not thought to condemn these acts instead he tweets insults at the Saturday Night Live cast in the middle of the night.

When you’re out Christmas shopping somewhere you’ll see a sign that says “You break it, you bought it.” It’s time for those who voted for Trump to own the racist remarks he’s made. It’s on you because you’ve given him a green light by knowingly casting your ballot in his favor. You are in part responsible for the hate crime spike because your support and your vote for Trump gave permission for racist speech and as we know from Roof having permission to speak such ugliness turns into ugly acts.

If you think you’re a good person and voted for Trump because he’s a Republican it’s time for you to step up and condemn his racism and that of many of his supporters. It’s time you prove you’re a good person by running the racists out of the Republican Party once and for all. While you’re at it you need call out those that think it’s OK to make fun of the disabled like Trump did on national television when he demeaned a journalist who offended his tender feelings. You also need to intervene when you see some misogynist in the work place grabbing a woman or sexually harassing her as Trump so proudly stated he did. You need to step up or you’re just another racist, misogynist and not a good person. So which are you?

Published in the Seguin Gazette December 16, 2016 


Friday, December 16, 2016

Radical Christian White Supremacist on Trial

A radical Christian white supremacist went on trial last week for the nine murders he committed June 17, 2015. That’s not the phrasing you’re likely to hear from ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox. There you’ll hear that Dylann Roof is accused of 33 counts of hate crimes for the murders he committed that night at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. You’ll probably hear or read that he wanted to start a race war but unlike the Muslims who killed so many in San Bernadino later that year no one wants to talk about how Roof was radicalized.

Now think about how many Americans react to such violence perpetrated by Muslims, too many of us want to throw them all out of the country. President-elect Trump on the campaign trail said he thought it would be a good idea to register all Muslims. We all know how well that worked out for German Jews and Americans of Japanese ancestry. Many Americans screech that if Muslims don’t believe in such violence then their religious leaders should speak out against it. I don’t hear them calling for Christian churches like the one Roof attended to speak out in condemnation.

Analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center suggests that Roof was a reader and commenter on The Daily Stormer, a white nationalist news website. Roof cited the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens as his gateway to white nationalism. The Council’s president Earl Holt issued a statement saying that Roof had some "legitimate grievances" against black people. Harold Covington, the founder of the Northwest Front called the attack "a preview of coming attractions". These groups like to refer to themselves as the alt-right as if they’re just another variant of conservatism and the media generally lets them get away with it.

Roof’s horrendous acts occurred well before Trump began his run for the presidency yet he openly courted the alt-right/white nationalist vote and their campaign donations. Since last year numerous media sources have reported on drastic increases hate crimes yet the soon to be leader of the most powerful nation on earth has not thought to condemn these acts instead he tweets insults at the Saturday Night Live cast in the middle of the night.

When you’re out Christmas shopping somewhere you’ll see a sign that says “You break it, you bought it.” It’s time for those who voted for Trump to own the racist remarks he’s made. It’s on you because you’ve given him a green light by knowingly casting your ballot in his favor. You are in part responsible for the hate crime spike because your support and your vote for Trump gave permission for racist speech and as we know from Roof having permission to speak such ugliness turns into ugly acts.

If you think you’re a good person and voted for Trump because he’s a Republican it’s time for you to step up and condemn his racism and that of many of his supporters. It’s time you prove you’re a good person by running the racists out of the Republican Party once and for all. While you’re at it you need call out those that think it’s OK to make fun of the disabled like Trump did on national television when he demeaned a journalist who offended his tender feelings. You also need to intervene when you see some misogynist in the work place grabbing a woman or sexually harassing her as Trump so proudly stated he did. You need to step up or you’re just another racist, misogynist and not a good person. So which are you?

Published in the Seguin Gazette December 16, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Price Proves a Dangerous Appointment

Georgia congressman and medical doctor Tom Price is Donald Trump's nominee to be Secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS). He's only known for his obsessive opposition to the Affordable Care Act so you can call him Doctor No. As disturbing as Price’s opposition to insuring that 20 million Americans continue to have access to health care is I’m even more concerned about his views on medical science.

As Secretary for Health and Human Services Price will set policy for a number of agencies including: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – which does much of our basic biomedical and health-related, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – which among other things sets vaccine policy for this country, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – regulating pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food, diagnostics, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Dr. Tom Price belongs to a radical physician’s group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). The associate requires its members to sign a “declaration of independence” pledging that they will not work with Medicare, Medicaid, or even private insurance companies. According to AAPS Principles of Medical Ethics, it is moral and ethical to refuse to treat patients who have Medicare or Medicaid. Apparently that means Price doesn’t believe in medical care for those over 65 or disabled because Medicare is the only insurer those folks have access to in my experience.

In addition the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons is explicitly opposed to any form of government regulation of health care and considers the Food and Drug Administration to be unconstitutional. The association also inexplicably opposes organ donations.

The association publishes the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons which often promotes articles on such junk science as the thoroughly debunked connection between autism and vaccinations as well as those denying the link between HIV and AIDS, claims that abortions cause breast cancer. The reason this is important is that no other journal will publish these papers due to the consistently poor quality of the research. This journal seems to prefer bad science as a criterion for publication.

If this were just matter of who was going to speak and the Lions Club annual benefit or the high school graduation none of this would matter. Instead we’re talking about whether or not the man who will lead one of the most important scientific agencies in the country actually accepts the scientific method we all should have learned in grammar school or high school science class. If he doesn’t as appears from his membership in the fringe Association of American Physicians and Surgeons the American people are in danger.

If the proverb “Whoever keeps company with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm” is true then Price is also a quack and we’ll be the ones suffering harm so he’s the last person who should be in charge of the nation’s healthcare resources.


Published in the Seguin Gazette December 9, 2016