civic duty

Watching the presidential inauguration today is not part of my civic duty.

Paying my taxes is, so this morning I went to the town office to pay our town and county taxes, which will help to provide our community with roads, parks, public safety, libraries, water and sewer systems, and many other things that make our everyday life possible. (Later in the year, we will pay our school taxes, which funds the very important work of educating our young people so they can grow up to be responsible adults.)

This afternoon, I attended an event in conjunction with the national bus tour to “Save Our Health Care” by stopping the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Our hope is to pass additional legislation that will build on and improve the ACA – and which the Congressional Republicans have refused to consider during the Obama presidency.

Millions of people only have insurance today because of the ACA, including some members of my family. Everybody also benefits from provisions of the ACA, such as no exclusions for pre-existing conditions; 100% coverage for wellness exams, mammograms, colonoscopies, birth control, and other benefits; women not being charged extra just because they are women; and no lifetime caps on claims. Seniors get help with closing the “donut” hole in the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Many people think that the rise in insurance premiums has been caused by the ACA, but the truth is that the rate at which insurance premiums were rising was much higher before it was enacted. For most people, the federal subsidies make premiums affordable. Even if the deductible is high, people benefit from lower costs for appointments; doctors and hospitals charge people without insurance much higher prices. Additionally, Medicare has had years of solvency added because of the ACA.

It is scary that the Republicans in Congress are looking at repealing the ACA without simultaneously replacing it. It makes much more sense to improve the ACA than to abolish it.

Mend it. Don’t end it!

Health care is a human right and providing it is one way that we in the United States can “promote the general welfare” as our Constitution states.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/20/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-20th17/

jjj-2017

SoCS: panic-inducing problems

Panic must be setting in.

Why else would I be up writing this post at 2 AM?

With DT’s inauguration less than a week away, more and more information is emerging about Russia’s influence in the election, and, even worse, about possible collusion between the campaign and Russia and about the threat that our incoming president could be blackmailed by Russia.

The problem is compounded by the fact that DT won’t release tax returns and won’t divest his business holdings, so there is no way to know if he owes money to Russian oligarchs or banks – or how many other countries or financial institutions may have financial power over him.

Further compounding of the problem is that many of his cabinet and staff picks have not completed financial disclosures and ethics agreements and that some may be confirmed despite that.

DT is also phenomenally unpopular. Public opinion polls show him with the lowest approval ratings of any incoming president and the approval rating for his transition is even lower.

Our Constitution does not prepare us for this situation. The Congress could impeach and try the president if their investigations show he committed high crimes or misdemeanors, but Vice President Pence would be implicated as well. If they were both out of office through resignation or trial, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan would become president in a nearly impossible governing situation.

Is it any wonder I am having trouble sleeping?
*****
Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday and/or Just Jot It January! Today’s prompt was to base a post on a word beginning with the letter P. (I started with panic, but wound up more with problem and president.) Find out how to participate here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-and-jusjojan-jan-1417/

 

Open letter to the electors

Dear Members of the Electoral College,

On December 19th, you will meet to perform your Constitutional duty and elect the next president of the United States.

Your duty is to cast a vote for someone who is equipped to lead the country and ready to uphold and defend the Constitution, a person who has the support of the plurality of the electorate.

That person should be Hillary Clinton.

Clinton won the popular vote in the country by two percentage points, over two and a half million more votes than Donald Trump. The current electoral college system gives more weight to the votes cast in less populous states, as well as disregarding the votes for anyone but the winner in all states. This distorts the will of the people as a whole, which is why there has been a movement for electors to agree to vote for the winner of the national popular vote, even if their state voted for an opponent.

Even if you don’t believe that the largest number of votes should determine the winner of the presidency, electors have always been called upon to exercise judgment in their choice, to vote for a candidate who is qualified for office and who will put the country and its interests above party, personal gain, or foreign influence.

Consider this quote from the Federalist Papers (No. 68):

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention. They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men [and women] who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment.

Electors are to cast their votes to protect the country from candidates who have been compromised by corruption, which, sadly, Donald Trump has exhibited in recent weeks.

I was already alarmed by Russia’s interfering with the campaign process, but it has become clear that Russia intervened specifically to elect Donald Trump. Trump’s refusal to acknowledge this, or even to pledge to investigate further, is not worthy of the presidency, which needs to remain vigilant against undue foreign influence. Equally appalling is the fact that some of the Republican Congressional leadership opposed informing the American people about the level of threat of Russian interference in our election before the vote took place. These members of Congress put their party above the security and integrity of the American people and our electoral process. Trump is rewarding Senator McConnell by appointing his spouse to a Cabinet post. It also appears likely that Trump will choose Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State, whose main qualification seems to be his cozy relationship with Russia and Putin, centered around oil drilling.

Even for those who don’t respect or believe the assessments of the intelligence agencies of the United States, Trump’s staff and Cabinet appointments have been alarming. Despite running his campaign as a populist who understands working class concerns, he is stuffing the Cabinet with insiders and billionaires, some who have records of profiting from illegal or unethical business dealings. In a nation that prides itself on civilian leadership, there are three recently retired generals in major posts, including his pick for Defense Secretary who is ineligible to serve under current law because he has only been retired for three years.

Some staff and Cabinet appointees have exhibited extreme views. Steve Bannon comes to mind immediately. Several are antagonistic to the departments for which they are assigned, for example, an education secretary who is not a great supporter of public schools and a head of the EPA who has filed suit multiple times against the EPA on behalf of Oklahoma fossil fuel interests. Others just seem spectacularly unqualified for the posts to which they are nominated. Dr. Ben Carson is a good brain surgeon, but even he admits that he is not a trained administrator and has no expertise in public housing policy.

Beyond all of these issues, there is the problem of Trump’s refusal to disconnect himself from his business, setting up myriad conflicts of interest. Trump used his campaign to promote his business ventures and to enrich himself by renting space, his airplane, etc. to the campaign. Since the election, he has continued to mix business with his duties to the nation, even allowing his daughter and business partner to meet with a foreign dignitary.  Foreign governments and organizations have been using Trump properties in hopes of currying favor with the president-elect; prospects for projects for the Trump brand abroad have been smoothed. Even if Trump doesn’t let his business interests affect his decisions, his connection to his business and brand will affect business and government decisions made by others, both domestically and internationally.

Donald Trump also has a long history of legal problems. He has been sued countless times and been connected with wage theft, hiring of undocumented workers, and housing discrimination. He threatens to sue others frequently. He has flaunted his sexual behavior, including his infidelities, showing over and over that he abuses his power and position to ogle, touch, and assault women, as well as rate them on their looks, overlooking all their other attributes as people.

He has espoused clearly unconstitutional views, including discrimination on the basis of religion and the denial of birthright citizenship.

He has also lied – a lot. Some in his circle have even said that facts don’t matter and that whatever the president does is legal by virtue of the fact that the president is the one doing it.

All of this illustrates why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States.

An elector from Texas has publicly said he will not vote for Trump and suggests another Republican such as Gov. Kasich.  I applaud him for using his judgment as an elector to protect the country from Trump, but humbly suggest that he use his vote to reflect the winner of the national popular vote, including 3.8 million Texans, Hillary Clinton.

I realize there would be backlash if the electors choose Clinton on December 19th – and that her transition period would be very short, although she is well-prepared with policy positions and would be able to use the preparatory work that was done during her campaign to quickly put the major nominations in place – but it would save the country from the prospect of four years of corruption and interference from Russia that a Trump presidency would almost surely bring.

The electoral college was designed to prevent just such an occurrence, with the electors using their judgment and conscience to choose the most qualified candidate. In this instance, the electors have the backing of the popular vote count.

Please, Electors, for the good of the country, cast your votes for Hillary Clinton on December 19th.

Your fellow American,
Joanne Corey

What I am voting for

This election cycle in the United States has often focused on what people are voting against but I want to focus this last post before the election on what I am voting for.

I am voting for:

  • candidates who want government to work to uphold the common good and to “promote the general welfare” as our Constitution states
  • candidates who have experience working together with others to accomplish goals
  • candidates who understand science, law, and history and who articulate their policy positions clearly
  • the most progressive candidates who have a chance of being elected, which in my state means voting on the Working Families party line
  • ground-breaking women candidates, including Hillary Clinton for president and Kim Myers for Congress
  • candidates who accept the climate science concensus and who will take action to protect the environment
  • candidates who are at least as smart as I am

My state does not have early voting or voting by mail except in very limited circumstances, so I will be going to the neighborhood volunteer fire station to vote on Tuesday. I am very confident in the integrity of our voting process, with experienced poll workers from our town ensuring that only eligible voters cast ballots, in our case, paper ballots read by optical scanners.

I hope that all registered voters will vote in this election and accept the results. Most importantly, I hope that all people will come together in support of a government that works to pass and implement laws and budgets that respect and support human dignity and community.

Our Constitution begins with “We the people.” As a democracy, we are pledged to each other and called to cooperate with each other, regardless of our individual differences, “to form a more perfect union.”  Hyperindividualism, greed, prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry are destructive to our country.

The United States has a lot of healing to do. We had best start now.

[I am writing this at an (obnoxiously) early hour on Monday before launching into what is likely to be an intensely busy next few weeks with a lot of important transitions and events happening simultaneously. I considered disabling comments because I am not sure of being able to respond in a timely way. I decided to allow comments, but reserve the right to close or delete comments if they get out of hand.]

Reaction to the death of Justice Scalia

Like most people in the United States, I was surprised to hear of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday. Although he was the longest-serving justice on the current Court, he was, at 79, not the eldest, and was considered to be in good health.

He has been the anchor of the conservative justices on the Court for many years. He was an originalist, trying to interpret the Constitution as intended by its authors. I think of originalists as being akin to fundamentalists in religious interpretation. (When interpreting documents, I am more inclined toward taking into account the historical setting of the time a text was written, as well as historical-social developments since to gain contemporary understanding, which is the opposite school of thought to Scalia’s viewpoint.)

What was most shocking to me, though, was the reaction within hours by the Republican leaders of the Senate and the Republicans running for the presidential nomination that President Obama should not nominate a replacement for the Supreme Court vacancy, instead leaving it open until his successor takes office. (For those of you outside the United States, the Constitutionally-proscribed procedure is that the President nominates a person for the Supreme Court and the Senate then votes to accept or reject the nominee. Supreme Court appointments are for life and choosing Supreme Court nominees is considered one of the most important duties of the presidency.)

I was shocked first in social/human/religious terms, that the Republican Senate leadership was so immediately politicizing Justice Scalia’s death.  In the first hours and days after his death, there should have been recognition of his public service and condolences to his wife, their nine children and many grandchildren, colleagues, and friends, not political wrangling about his replacement. It was sadly ironic that many of the same politicians who say it is disrespectful to the families of victims to discuss gun control legislation in the aftermath of a mass shooting had no qualms about politicizing Justice Scalia’s death before his body had even been transported back to his hometown.

The Supreme Court has been closely divided in recent years, issuing many 5-4 decisions. With Justice Scalia gone, the current term is likely to be produce a number of 4-4 ties, which means that lower court rulings will stand, but that no precedent has been set. Those cases or issues are likely to come back to the Supreme Court in the future.

If a replacement for Justice Scalia has not been confirmed by October, when the next Court session will begin hearing arguments, the country risks losing the voice of the Court for another whole year.

Our government is already suffering from gridlock; we can’t afford to make it worse.

The Congressional Republicans have been obstructing much of the normal legislative functions of passing bills and timely confirmation of executive and judicial appointments during the Obama presidency.

It has to stop.

If the Republicans delay or obstruct a Senate confirmation for a Supreme Court justice, they are violating the Constitution that they have sworn to uphold.

PS  Within an hour of posting this, I ran across this segment of John Oliver discussing Scalia’s replacement. I thought you might enjoy it. Warning: there is a bit of adult language.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Vt9xV9ZI74

an open letter to Speaker Boehner

Dear Speaker Boehner,

Thank you for your service in what has become an increasingly untenable job.

I implore you in your remaining days as speaker to lead in a new direction. Please search through the Republicans in the House and identify those who want to govern, rather than obstruct.

Speak to House minority leader Pelosi about forming a governing coalition so that the legislation that the country and all of its people need passes, among these being a clean debt ceiling raise and a just budget, which puts human needs first.

Nancy Pelosi, as a former speaker, would be the natural choice to lead this new coalition, although another person outside of Congress would be a possibility.

The country cannot afford to be made ungovernable by a few dozen representatives who refuse to do their job, which is to govern for the good of the country, not just their district, not just the people within their district who voted for them.

Pope Francis eloquently called on the Congress to work together, in keeping with the ideals of our Constitution.

I know you believe these ideals and ask you to put the common good above partisan politics to craft a solution that will move the Congress and the nation out of its current dysfunction.

Sincerely,
Joanne Corey

SNAP

Dear Members of Congress,

I made a trip to our local farmers’ market this morning to choose among the amazing summertime bounty of fruits and vegetables from the NY/PA border region.

I was pleased to see the market so crowded and gratified to see that the vendors accepted SNAP benefit vouchers from shoppers. The people that I saw using vouchers this morning were retirement age women, but I know that there are also younger adults and families in our area who use SNAP benefits, even though household members have jobs.

I call on you to expand food benefits programs such as SNAP and WIC so that everyone in the USA has access to all the food they need to maintain or improve their health.

I also call on you to ensure that employers pay their employees a living wage, so that they don’t need to rely on government programs for basic necessities.

Both are ways to “promote the general welfare” as you are called to do by our Constitution.

Sincerely,
Joanne Corey

separation of powers

Any presidential candidate who claims s/he will ignore the recent Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality and/or the Affordable Care Act has obviously not thoroughly read the Constitution and does not understand that the judiciary is an independent branch of government over which the executive branch does not have precedence.

Such a person has no business running for president and should withdraw immediately.

(Happy) Independence Day!

In the United States of America, July fourth is commemorated as the anniversary of our nation. We are supposed to celebrate our country and the freedoms it affords with parades and picnics and fireworks.

I don’t feel like celebrating.

Our national government is mired in long-standing dysfunction. Poverty rates are high. Infrastructure is crumbling. Social mobility is nearly impossible. Income inequality is at an extreme level, similar to the 1920’s, right before the Great Depression.

I think what distresses me the most is the inability of people to even listen to those with a different viewpoint, much less reach a consensus that moves us toward resolving any of these issues.

Many in the country seem to have forgotten the Preamble to our Constitution, which sets out what our nation and its government, chosen by the people, is supposed to be and do.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It’s time – past time – for all of us to take this obligation seriously. If we don’t take action soon to truly “promote the general welfare,” there will not be blessings to bestow on future generations.

Let’s all get to work.

Now.

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