Last week was a real problem for me. I wrote several blogs but couldn’t convince myself to post them. There was not much new to write about. After all, how many times can you document President Donald Trump’s lies, his administration’s chaos and his attacks on the media? If you keep doing that, after a while it all becomes normalized. Well, Trump and his administration are not normal.
But an interesting article by The Washington Post surfaced later last week that may not have been covered in the regular news. What prompted the article was Trump’s third consecutive weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago. I call these “ego” trips because Trump can surround himself with admiring friends. This past weekend he stopped in Melbourne, Florida where he gave a long campaign speech to his supporters, more salve for his ego.
Presidential trips are very expensive and we taxpayers get the bill. According to several articles on this subject, Judicial Watch, a conservative organization that seeks to expose misconduct by government officials, estimated that President Barack Obama’s travel expenses totaled almost $97 million over eight years. That is around $12.1 million a year. If you recall, conservatives were constantly hammering Obama for his vacations to golf or whatever.
Estimates for Trump’s three weekends at Mar-a-Lago, plus his son’s business trips during that period are estimated to have cost taxpayers $11.3 million. Then there is protection for First Lady Melania and their son Barron living in Trump Tower in New York City. This is estimated to cost the city $500,000 per day according to the WP article and could cost as much as $183 million a year. No doubt that cost will be paid by the federal government. Of course the government must rent space in Trump hotels when Trump or his family stay in those facilities and the Secret Service is discussing renting space in Trump Tower where leasing a floor can cost $1.5 million per year.
Republicans and conservative organizations called Obama the “Vacationer in chief,” the “Divider in chief,” the “Spender in chief,” etc. They held Obama to a very high standard. It remains to be seen if Trump will be held to any standard at all.
Also last week some policy proposals surfaced from the U.S. House. As you recall repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and tax cuts are high on the GOP agenda. So Speaker of the House Paul Ryan ventured over to the other side of the Capitol to discuss his tax proposal with GOP senators. This plan includes the controversial 20 percent border adjustment tax that would be applied only to imports and would collect more than $1 trillion over 10 years.
Of course retailers, oil companies and businesses that import other products like vehicle parts are not happy. Ryan wants the border tax to offset the tax cuts his plan gives to the wealthy. Needless to say the border tax will be paid by John Q. Consumer in higher prices. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that Ryan’s plan wouldn’t get 10 votes in the Senate. We shall see.
Last Thursday House Republicans rolled out a preliminary proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare. It has taken them over six years to get their act together and by all accounts it isn’t quite together yet. You would think that Obama’s health care plan would be a snap to replace if it is actually the “disaster” Republicans and Trump say it is. Replacing a program so bad and so detrimental to the public should be really popular too, right?
Well now congressional Republicans are terrified about being reelected because their replacement plan could result in millions of Americans losing their health care coverage. And Trump keeps adding to their misery by promising that the replacement will provide better coverage for less money and cover more people.
According to an article by The Hill, the latest GOP plan will include tax credits, an expansion of health savings accounts, funds for high risk pools to provide insurance for those with preexisting conditions and restructuring of Medicaid to cap federal payments. In addition it would repeal all taxes included in Obamacare; immediately repeal penalties for violating Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates; and phase out the Medicaid expansion over time. .
Insurers say that the individual mandate is critical for getting healthy people enrolled and with no penalties that won’t happen. And according to a CBO report, if the individual mandate is repealed “premiums for policies in the individual market would increase by roughly 20 percent relative to current law in all years between 2017 and 2025.” Ouch!
Over the weekend Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich said that phase out of Medicaid expansion “is a very, very bad idea.” Ohio and 30 other states expanded Medicaid under Obamacare thereby providing coverage for an estimated 11 million low income citizens.
I will focus on GOP budgets, tax plans and Obamacare replacement plans as they unfold over the next several months. But it is obvious to me that House Republicans are intent on benefiting corporations and the wealthy. They do this in the name of growing the economy and adding jobs, but don’t be fooled. Their ultimate objective is to dismantle the federal government’s safety net for the elderly and low income citizens. We must not let that happen.