Why the UN is investigating extreme poverty in America, the world’s richest nation

At the heart of Philip Alstons special mission will be one question: can Americans enjoy fundamental human rights if theyre unable to meet basic living standards?

The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty and human rights has embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of the US to hold the worlds richest nation and its president to account for the hardships endured by Americas most vulnerable citizens.

The tour, which kicked off on Friday morning, will make stops in four states as well as Washington DC and the US territory of Puerto Rico. It will focus on several of the social and economic barriers that render the American dream merely a pipe dream to millions from homelessness in California to racial discrimination in the Deep South, cumulative neglect in Puerto Rico and the decline of industrial jobs in West Virginia.

With 41 million Americans officially in poverty according to the US Census Bureau (other estimates put that figure much higher), one aim of the UN mission will be to demonstrate that no country, however wealthy, is immune from human suffering induced by growing inequality. Nor is any nation, however powerful, beyond the reach of human rights law a message that the US government and Donald Trump might find hard to stomach given their tendency to regard internal affairs as sacrosanct.

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, is a feisty Australian and New York University law professor who has a fearsome track record of holding power to account. He tore a strip off the Saudi Arabian regime for its treatment of women months before the kingdom legalized their right to drive, denounced the Brazilian government for attacking the poor through austerity, and even excoriated the UN itself for importing cholera to Haiti.

The US is no stranger to Alstons withering tongue, having come under heavy criticism from him for its program of drone strikes on terrorist targets abroad. In his previous role as UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Alston blamed the Obama administration and the CIA for killing many innocent civilians in attacks he said were of dubious international legality.

United
United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP

Now Alston has set off on his sixth, and arguably most sensitive, visit as UN monitor on extreme poverty since he took up the position in June 2014. At the heart of his fact-finding tour will be a question that is causing increasing anxiety at a troubled time: is it possible, in one of the worlds leading democracies, to enjoy fundamental human rights such as political participation or voting rights if you are unable to meet basic living standards, let alone engage, as Thomas Jefferson put it, in the pursuit of happiness?

Despite great wealth in the US, there also exists great poverty and inequality, Alston said in remarks released before the start of the visit. The rapporteur said he intended to focus on the detrimental effects of poverty on the civil and political rights of Americans, given the United States consistent emphasis on the importance it attaches to these rights in its foreign policy, and given that it has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Poverty experts are watching the UN tour closely in the hope that it might draw public attention to a largely neglected but critical aspect of US society.

David Grusky, director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford, said the visit had the potential to hold a mirror up to the country at a moment when globalization combined with a host of domestic policies have generated a vast gulf between rich and poor.

The US has an extraordinary ability to naturalize and accept the extreme poverty that exists even in the context of such extreme wealth, he said.

Grusky added that the US reaction to Alstons visit could go either way. It has the potential to open our eyes to what an outlier the US has become compared with the rest of the world, or it could precipitate an adverse reaction towards an outsider who has no legitimacy telling us what to do about internal US affairs.

Alstons findings will be announced in preliminary form in Washington on 15 December, and then presented as a full report to the UN human rights council in Geneva next June. An especially unpredictable element of the fallout will be how Trump himself receives the final report, given the presidents habit of lashing out at anyone perceived to criticize him or his administration.

Trump has also shown open disdain towards the world body. In the course of the 2016 presidential campaign he griped that we get nothing out of the United Nations other than good real-estate prices.

On the other hand, observers have been surprised that the White House has honored the invitation to host Alston after the initial offer was extended by Barack Obama. US diplomats on more than one occasion since Trumps inauguration have said they welcomed the UN party.

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Ruby Dee Rudolph in her home in Lowndes County. A recent study suggests that nearly one one in three people in Lowndes County have hookworm, a parasite normally found in poor, developing countries. Photograph: Bob Miller for The Guardian

Alston himself is reserving his comments until the end of the tour. But his published work suggests that he is likely to be a formidable critic of the new president. In a lecture he gave last year on the challenges posed by Trump and other modern populist leaders, he warned that their agenda was avowedly nationalistic, xenophobic, misogynistic, and explicitly antagonistic to all or much of the human rights agenda.

Alston concluded the speech by saying: These are extraordinarily dangerous times, unprecedentedly so in my lifetime. The response is really up to us.

The UN poverty tour falls at a singularly tense moment for the US. In its 2016 state of the nation review, the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality placed the US rank at the bottom of the league table of 10 well-off countries, in terms of the extent of its income and wealth inequality.

It also found that the US hit rock bottom in terms of the safety net it offers struggling families, and is one of the worst offenders in terms of the ability of low-income families to lift themselves out of poverty a stark contrast to the much-vaunted myth of the American dream.

To some extent, Trumps focus on making America great again a political jingo that in itself contains an element of criticism of the state of the nation chimes with the UNs concern about extreme poverty. His call for greater prosperity for white working Americans in declining manufacturing areas that proved so vital to his election victory will be echoed in Alstons visit to the depressed coal-producing state of West Virginia, which backed Trump in 2016 by a resounding 69%.

In many other ways, though, the Trump administration in its first year has taken a radically hostile approach towards communities in need. He has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to abolish Obamacare in a move that would deprive millions of low-income families of healthcare insurance, was widely criticized for his lackluster response to the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico that has left thousands homeless and without power, and is currently pushing a tax reform that would benefit one group above all others: the super rich.

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A man who lost his home during Hurricane Maria in September sits on a cot at a school turned shelter in Canovanas. Photograph: Alvin Baez/Reuters

The US poses an especially challenging subject for the UN special rapporteur because unlike all other industrialized nations, it fails to recognize fundamental social and economic rights such as the right to healthcare, a roof over your head or food to keep hunger at bay. The federal government has consistently refused to sign up to the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights arguing that these matters are best left to individual states.

Such an emphasis on states rights has spawned a patchwork of provision for low-income families across the country. Republican-controlled states in the Deep South provide relatively little help to those struggling from unemployment and lack of ready cash, while more assistance is likely to be forthcoming in bigger coastal cities.

By contrast, raging house prices and gentrification is fueling a homelessness crisis in liberal cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco the first stop next week of the UN tour.

Martha Davis, a law professor specializing in US human rights at Northeastern University, said that such vast regional variations present the UN monitor with a huge opportunity. Unlike other international officials, he has the ability to move freely at both federal and state levels and be equally critical of both.

Theres a lot that Philip Alston can say about basic inequality that goes to the heart of the rights that he is reviewing, Davis said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/01/un-extreme-poverty-america-special-rapporteur

Trump to rally: GOP senators who oppose health bill ‘will have a lot of problems’

Trump speaks for an hour at campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio, and boasts of accomplishments while pledging once again to build that wall

Donald Trump warned that Republican senators who dont support legislation repealing and replacing Obamacare will have a lot of problems.

Speaking for an hour at a campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump took a victory lap after the Senate voted to begin debate on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We are now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare, he said.

Before a raucous crowd in the blue-collar city, Trump went on to warn that any senator who votes against repeal and replace tells America that they are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, and I predict theyll have a lot of problems.

However, Trump spent comparatively little time discussing healthcare. Instead, he returned to familiar themes from his freewheeling presidential campaign, deriding fake news and pledging once again to build that wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. He also returned to familiar boasts about how, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, he can be more presidential than any president thats ever held this office and taunted protesters, saying about one: Hes going back home to mommy.

He spent much of the rally boasting about his accomplishments since taking office: I think, with few exceptions, no president has done anywhere near what we have done in his first six months.

In particular, Trump dwelled on his efforts to curb illegal immigration and deport undocumented migrants from the United States. Trump claimed that in doing so we are liberating our towns and cities and warned darkly of immigrants in gangs committing crimes.

They dont want to use guns because its too fast and its not painful enough, claimed Trump. So theyll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15 and others, and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die, and these are the animals that weve been protecting for so long.

Trump though did not address the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election or his growing displeasure with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for recusing himself from the justice departments investigation into the 2016 campaign.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/25/trump-republicans-healthcare-bill-rally-ohio

John McCain had the chance to do the right thing on healthcare. He failed | Lucia Graves

There are many reasons to respect the Arizona senator, but his remarkable stoicism and service cant excuse his yes vote in the Senate

John McCain often gets cast as a truth-teller to Donald Trump, but his voting record says otherwise. And nowhere was that more clear than on Tuesday when, despite his own ill health, when it came to the decision of whether to take other peoples healthcare away, he cast a decisive vote in the wrong direction.

Addressing his fellow lawmakers, McCain called passionately for a return to regular order, and for senators to work constructively across the aisle. Why dont we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act, he said in his Tuesday speech. If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then lets return to regular order!

Though he has often railed against Trump as if he cant actually affect what he is complaining about, McCain isnt a helpless observer hes an influential senator. And on Tuesday, as the country draws closer than ever before to the death of the Affordable Care Act, he was a pivotal one.

Had McCain simply voted no to the question of whether the Senate should begin debate on a repeal or replacement of Obamacare, which squeaked by in the Senate with a vote of 51-50, the chambers leader Mitch McConnell might well have been forced to do the very thing McCain claimed to want: restore the chamber to order.

Instead, McCain, who was recently and tragically diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, and who returned to DC explicitly to help save the GOP healthcare bill, voted yes.

To put it another way, faced with a rare opportunity to make a real tangible difference, he risked traveling amid failing health to make possible the very thing he decried.

More damningly, he voted yes to take away healthcare from millions of Americans including an untold number of other cancer patients even as he continues to access benefits of the quality care afforded him as a senator, care subsidized by American taxpayers.

Never mind that at this point in time Republicans have little idea what the bill they would replace Obamacare with will contain. Never mind that we have arrived at this point through a secretive process devoid of public hearings, or even that Republicans would have the healthcare of millions of American women dreamed up entirely by men.

Politics appears to have triumphed over logic. Sadly, the politics that won out today are is not even a sort personally dear to John McCain that much was made clear in his floor speech. Its not even his own electoral politics that won out, either; after a tough re-election battle, he wont be up again until 2022, freeing him up as much as electorally possible to act solely with his moral compass as the guide.

Instead, McCain did the very thing he had just railed against, acting out of partisan loyalty.

There are many reasons to respect McCain, a former prisoner of war who endured torture in the five and a half years he spent captive in North Vietnam, and has campaigned against torture by the US. His 2008 campaign against Barack Obama now looks like the very model of civility in the wake of Trump.

But even his remarkable stoicism and service cant excuse what he just did.

The grim reality is that health insurance is of the utmost importance when it comes to surviving cancer, the second leading killer in America after heart disease. Put simply, the uninsured are much more likely to die than those with insurance and sooner.

A recent study in the journal Cancer found the uninsured were 88% more likely to die of testicular cancer than those with insurance. For patients with Medicaid, the number dropped to a 58% greater chance of dying than privately insured patients like McCain.

The study found the same trend held true for patients with glioblastoma, the malignant brain cancer McCain was recently diagnosed with. Its a terribly disease with a median life expectancy with his type of just 15 months, and thats as true for McCain as anyone, but the uninsured still die faster than anyone.

Voting to subject any one of millions of Americans to go to meet such a fate without even the benefit of the best tools medicine has to fight it is cruel, given McCains new-found appreciation of the benefit.

The estimated cost of McCains recent surgery to remove the cancer above his eye is a sum that would bankrupt many Americans, using the Medicare rates for which McCain qualifies.

Theres a way to fix the fact that many Americans under the age of 65 dont have access to any such care: let everyone under it buy in, a scheme for which many on the left have argued. But on Tuesday, McCain helped move the country in precisely the opposite direction.

We still dont know which of several bills Republicans will bring up for a vote, but all of them involve millions of Americans losing the very sort of health insurance upon which McCain depends.

The only question is whether its a matter of 22, 32, or just 15 million people who will lose access. What we can say with confidence is whatever version moves forward, McCains lost more than his good health hes lost his decency.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/25/john-mccain-healthcare-senate-vote-republicans

John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer, spokesman says

Statement reveals brain tumor known as glioblastoma was removed along with blood clot above senators right eye during surgery last Friday

John McCain, the Arizona senator and former Republican presidential candidate, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

A brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was removed from McCain along with a blood clot in a surgery at the Mayo Clinic on Friday, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

McCains office had only previously announced that the blood clot had been removed from above the 80-year-olds left eye.

The Mayo Clinic said in a statement released by McCains office: The senator and his family are reviewing further treatment options with his Mayo Clinic care team. Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. The senators doctors say he is recovering from his surgery amazingly well and his underlying health is excellent.

The surgery had forced McCain to stay in Arizona this week and miss votes in the Senate. It had led to a delay in the vote on the Senate Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was originally scheduled for Monday. Since the delay was announced, a sufficient number of Republican senators came forward to express their opposition to the bill and forced the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to shelve it and instead try to push a vote on a clean repeal of the ACA.

In a statement, the Arizona senators spokesperson said that in the aftermath of his diagnosis, further consultations with [the] Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate.

An extended absence would likely make it even more difficult for Republicans to repeal or replace the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare. Senate Republicans have a narrow 52-48 majority and, with the tie-breaking vote of Mike Pence, can only afford to lose two votes if McCain is present. His absence means that two Republican no votes would now sink any legislation if all 48 Democrats are unified in opposition.

McCain, who was re-elected to his sixth term in the Senate in 2016, was the Republican partys presidential nominee in 2008 and finished second to George W Bush in the 2000 GOP presidential primary. Prior to his career in politics, McCain served as an aviator in the US navy, and was held as prisoner of war for five and a half years during the Vietnam war. While being held captive by the north Vietnamese, McCain was repeatedly subjected to torture. He retired as a captain after earning a number of decorations including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The Arizona senators illness sparked an outpouring of support from both sides of the aisle.

In a statement, Donald Trump said: Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon. Trump, who famously set off a political firestorm in 2015 by saying McCain was not a war hero, said earlier in the week of the Arizona senator: We hope John McCain gets better very soon because we miss him. Hes a crusty voice in Washington. Plus we need his vote. And hell be back.

Barack Obama, against whom McCain ran in the 2008 presidential election, tweeted: John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters Ive ever known. Cancer doesnt know what its up against. Give it hell, John.

Barack Obama (@BarackObama)

John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.

July 20, 2017

A number of McCains colleagues in the Senate also expressed their well wishes. In a statement, Mitch McConnell said: John McCain is a hero to our Conference and a hero to our country. He has never shied from a fight and I know that he will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life. The entire Senate familys prayers are with John, Cindy and his family, his staff, and the people of Arizona he represents so well. We all look forward to seeing this American hero again soon.

Outside a meeting of Senate Republicans to discuss healthcare reform on Wednesday night, senator John Hoeven of North Dakota said they had learned of the diagnosis during the meeting.

It was very emotional almost kind of stunned disbelief, Hoeven told reporters. Senator James Lankford, of Oklahoma, then led them in prayer.

Hoeven said the senators had received a message from McCain via South Carolina senator Lindsay Graham, a close friend. The senator told them he was eager to get back and get to work, Hoeven added.

Graham was visibly emotional as he recalled his conversation with McCain when he learned of the diagnosis.

He says, Ive been through worse, Graham told reporters. Five minutes into the call, however, McCain wanted to talk the legislative priories, Graham said.
God knows how this ends, he said. But I do know this: This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.

In a statement, McCains daughter Meghan said: He is a warrior at dusk, one of the greatest Americans of our age, and the worthy heir to his fathers and grandfathers name. But to me, he is something more. He is my strength, my example, my refuge, my confidante, my teacher, my rock, my hero my Dad.

Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain)

Statement regarding my father @SenJohnMcCain: pic.twitter.com/SMte9Hkwkq

July 20, 2017

Lauren Gambino contributed to this report.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/19/john-mccain-brain-cancer

Senate will vote to repeal Obamacare without replacement, after new healthcare bill stumbles

Republican Mitch McConnell calls for vote on clean repeal, after senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran come out against latest effort to replace Obamacare

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has announced that the Senate will vote on a clean repeal of Obamacare without any replacement, after two Republican senators broke ranks to torpedo the current Senate healthcare bill.

Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas came out on Monday night in opposition to McConnells Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the Senate version of the controversial healthcare reform bill that passed the House in May.

Senate Republicans hold a bare 52-48 majority in the Senate and two members of the GOP caucus, the moderate Susan Collins of Maine and the libertarian Rand Paul of Kentucky, already opposed the bill, along with all 48 Democrats. The announcement from Moran and Lee made it impossible for Republicans to muster the 50 votes needed to bring the BCRA bill to the floor.

Instead, McConnell announced late on Monday night that the Senate would vote on a bill to simply repeal Obamacare without any replacement in the coming days.

The Kentucky Republican said in a statement: Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.

He added that in the coming days the Senate would vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act with a two-year-delay. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2015, which was promptly vetoed by Barack Obama.

McConnells plan echoes a statement made by Donald Trump in a tweet on Monday night, in which the president urged a repeal of Obamacare with any replacement to come in the future.

Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in! Trump wrote.

The announcement from Lee and Moran came as Trump was having dinner at the White House with a number of senators who support the bill. Trump talked to several conservatives on the phone over the weekend, including Lee, in an attempt to win their support.

In a tweet, Lee noted that he could not support this version of the bill. Moran used the same language on Twitter. Both voted for a clean repeal of the Affordable Care Act in 2015, albeit with the expectation that it would be vetoed by Obama and not become law.

In an op-ed in The Resurgent, a conservative online publication, Lee cited the fact that the current bill did not incorporate an amendment that he introduced with Ted Cruz to allow insurance companies to offer bare-bones insurance plans. In Lees argument, the mandate that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions resulted in a hidden tax which meant that middle-class families are being forced to pay billions in higher health insurance premiums to help those with pre-existing conditions.

In a statement, Moran took a slightly different tack. He said: There are serious problems with Obamacare, and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it. This closed-door process has yielded the BCRA, which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcares rising costs. The Kansas Republican also warned that the current legislation leave[s] the federal government in control of everyday healthcare decisions which Moran said made it more likely that our healthcare system will devolve into a single-payer system, which would require a massive federal spending increase.

The announcement came shortly after a Senate vote on the healthcare bill was delayed due to the hospitalization of John McCain. The Arizona senator had a blood clot removed from above his left eye on Friday night and was unable to fly to Washington as a result. On Saturday, McConnell said the Senate would defer consideration of the bill while McCain recovered. A number of other moderate Republican senators have yet to take positions on the bill, most notably Dean Heller of Nevada.

Although a repeal of Obamacare without providing for a immediate replacement has long been popular with conservatives, many other Republicans have been skeptical of this approach because of the potential political cost.

In contrast, McCain said in a statement that Republicans should start the process of passing a health care bill over. Congress must now return to regular order [and] hold hearings, said the Arizona Republican.

In a statement, the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said: This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable.

He added: Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our healthcare system.

Lauren Gambino contributed reporting

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/17/republican-health-bill-senators-oppose-vote

$35,000 a plate: Donald Trump starts fundraising for 2020 re-election

Reporters barred from hearing presidents remarks at fundraiser held in Trumps Washington hotel

President Donald Trump was whisked a few blocks from the White House to his hotel on Wednesday night for his first re-election fundraiser. But reporters were barred from hearing his remarks.

Security was tight at the Trump International Hotel, where guests in long gowns and sharp suits started arriving around five.

The presidents motorcade was greeted by protesters outside hoisting signs with slogans such as Health care not tax cuts and chanting Shame! Shame!

First-time candidate Donald Trump got a late start on fundraising in 2016, holding his first big-ticket donor event only five months before Election Day.

Forty months before his next election, the president holds court at a $35,000 a plate donor event Wednesday night at his hotel in Washington. About 300 people are expected to attend an event that will pull in about $10 million, said Lindsay Jancek, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

Breaking the tradition of his predecessor, Trump is not allowing reporters to hear his remarks to the group of donors despite an announcement earlier in the day that a pool of reporters would be allowed in to hear the presidents remarks.

Its a political event and theyve chosen to keep that separate, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when asked why the event is closed to the media.

After reporters complained, Sanders announced the presidents remarks would be opened to the press only to reverse herself hours later.

Unfortunately there was some confusion with the RNC, and due to the logistical challenges bringing in the press at this late moment is not going to be possible, she said in an email.

Sanders also said there was nothing unusual about raising political cash so early.
Hes raising money for the party, she said. I dont think thats abnormal for any president.

Sanders statement that Trump is raising cash for the GOP tells only part of the story, though.

The first cut of the money raised goes to Trumps 2020 re-election campaign. The rest gets spread among the RNC and other various Republican entities. Having multiple beneficiaries is what allows Trump to ask for well above the usual $5,400 per-donor maximum for each election cycle.

Those contribution limits are likely to change because this fundraiser is so early that new donation limits for 2020 have not been set by the Federal Election Commission.

Trumps historically early campaigning comes with benefits and challenges.
In the first three months of this year, the Trump campaign raised more than $7 million, through small donations and the sale of Trump-themed merchandise such as the ubiquitous, Make America Great Again ball caps.

The RNC also is benefiting from the new presidents active campaigning, having raised about $62 million through the end of last month. The party has raised more online this year than it did in all of 2016.

Trumps re-election money helps pay for his political rallies. He has held five so far, and campaign director Michael Glassner says those events help keep him connected to his base of voters.

The constant politicking, however, means it is challenging for government employees to avoid inappropriately crossing ethical lines. Some watchdog groups have flagged White House employee tweets that veer into campaign territory. White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters says the employees work closely with lawyers to avoid pitfalls.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/29/35000-a-plate-donald-trump-starts-fundraising-for-2020-re-election

The Resistance Now: activists say ‘hell no’ to Republican healthcare bill

Progressives sprung into action with dozens protesting outside the Senate majority leaders office, while Democrats took stock after Ossoffs loss

So about that healthcare bill…

Dozens of people were arrested after protesting outside Senate majority leader Mitch McConnells office on Thursday including some in wheelchairs as Republicans unveiled Republicans unveiled Trumpcare 2.0 (or are we on 3.0 now?).

Activists from disability rights organization Adapt gathered outside McConnells office to demonstrate against the bill, which would dramatically cut Medicaid and strip funding from Planned Parenthood, to name just two measures.

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A protester is led away by police on Thursday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Progressive organizations sprung into action to try to defeat it.

Our Revolution set up a page on its website urging people to take action to stop AHCA [the Senate bill is called the Better Care Reconciliation Act but many of the principles are the same as the AHCA House bill] and prevent millions from losing their healthcare.

The organization has provided a number which will connect people to their Senators office, and has also provided some talking points.

AHCA would leave 23 million Americans without healthcare.

The bill would allow insurance companies to discriminate against patients and deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

A majority of voters strongly oppose repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).

Americans want to expand healthcare, not gut it. In fact, two-thirds of Americans support Medicare for all.

Indivisible has its own page too, where people can submit amendments to their senator. This is about applying your constituent power directly to the process, Indivisibles website says. They also have an extensive list of reading material and a script people can use when talking to their representatives.

Ossoff: doomed from the start?

Thats what a number of progressives told the Guardian, after the 30-year-old lost to Republican Karen Handel in Tuesdays special election.

Jon Ossoff ran on a centrist, Clinton-esque platform that focussed on rather beige, uncontroversial issues like government waste. There was no talk of universal healthcare and little of welfare issues. He ran in what has traditionally been a Republican stronghold, and lost by only five points, but Ossoff was basically the opposite of the kind of populist candidate the left believes is the way forward.

Hes not in favour of single-payer healthcare, hes not outspoken on campaign finance reform, said Moumita Ahmed, founder of Millennials for Revolution. Why would I as a Republican vote for someone who isnt a Republican, but still has the same values as a Republican?

Jon
Ossoff plus balloons. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Winnie Wong, from People for Bernie, said Ossoffs run the election was the most expensive House race in history, by the way was a massive failure of Democratic party leadership.

He didnt have a core progressive message and that ultimately is why he lost. The Democratic party could spend $100m and he would still lose. Because he didnt stand for anything.

but there is hope for a Brand New Congress

Thats the name of a group that selects, trains, supports and promotes progressives who want to run for Congress.

Brand New Congress (BNC), formed in April 2016, currently has 14 candidates who have announced their 2018 mid-term campaigns, including several who are running against incumbent Democrats.

We essentially provide full service campaign service, BNCs Corbin Trent told the Guardian this week. Brand New Congress manages press request, helps with events and ballot access, does opposition research on incumbents, and can even help with speechwriting.

Brand New Congress has organized a weekend canvassing kick off for its candidates (who are from across America) on Sunday. Each of the candidates all of whom are running on progressive platforms are holding events to boost their campaigns.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running against incumbent Democrat Joseph Crowley in New Yorks 14th congressional district, organized for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016.

We have the capacity and opportunity to be ambitious in legislation, Ocasio-Cortez told the Guardian. Because the world is changing in ways weve never seen before.

What were reading

  • Were in the midst of an all-hands-on-deck emergency, writes Rebecca Solnit, in which new groups and coalitions are emerging along with unforeseen capacities in many people who didnt previously think they were activists. Solnit says there are extraordinary things happening in this moment, in an uplifting survey of the activist land.
  • Progressives should try to speak conservative to score victories, historian and LGBTQ strategist Nathaniel Frank writes in the LA Times. He says the successes of the LGBTQ movement came when activists learned to speak the language of those they most needed to enlist rather than those who already agreed with them.

Ron Swanson reimagined as Berniecrat progressive

Parks
Parks and Recreations Ron Swanson … an eerie doppelganger for a Democratic candidate whos making headlines. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Randy Bryce, known as @IronStache on Twitter, sprung to fame this week when he announced his challenge to Republican house speaker Paul Ryan. In his favour? An evocative campaign advert, a leftwing message, and the mustache, denim and workboots of an all-American.

That masculine, blue-collar image prompted one Twitter user to suggest Bryce was genetically engineered from Bruce Springsteen songs, while several people compared the Democrat to the Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson. Just not a libertarian.

Randy
Randy Bryce is running for Paul Ryans seat in Congress. Photograph: YouTube

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/23/resistance-now-newsletter-healthcare-jon-ossoff

Donald Trump says he doesn’t want a ‘poor person’ in cabinet roles

President tells crowd during Iowa tour that economic adviser and commerce secretary had to give up a lot to work for him

Donald Trump has said he doesnt want a poor person to hold economic roles in his administration as he used an Iowa rally to defend his decision to appoint the wealthy to his cabinet.

The US president told a crowd on Wednesday night: Somebody said why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy? No its true. And Wilburs [commerce secretary Wilbur Ross] a very rich person in charge of commerce. I said: Because thats the kind of thinking we want.

The president explained that Ross and his economic adviser Gary Cohn had to give up a lot to take these jobs and that Cohn in particular, a former president of Goldman Sachs, went from massive pay days to peanuts.

Trump added: And I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just dont want a poor person. Does that make sense?

He made the comments as he toured the state with agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue and Ross partly to celebrate a Republican congressional victory in Georgia being seen as an early referendum on his presidency.

Trump touched down Wednesday evening in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and headed to a local community college and then to a campaign rally where he reveled in Karen Handels victory.

Were 5-0 in special elections, said Trump in front of a boisterous crowd that packed a downtown arena. The truth is, people love us … they havent figured it out yet.

Supporters
Supporters at a Donald Trump in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

He also applauded Republican Ralph Norman, who notched a slimmer-than-expected win in a special election to fill the South Carolina congressional seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, and mocked Handels challenger, Jon Ossoff, saying the Democrats spent $30m on this kid who forgot to live in the district.

Trump, no stranger to victory laps, turned his visit to a battleground state he captured in November into a celebration of his resilience despite the cloud of investigations that has enveloped his administration and sent his poll numbers tumbling.

With the appearance in Cedar Rapids, he will have held five rallies in the first five months in office.

The event underscores Trumps comfort in a campaign setting. He laughed off the occasional heckler, repeated riffs from last year and appeared far more at ease when going after Democrats in front of adoring crowds than trying to push through his own legislative agenda from the confines of the White House.

Trumps aides are making a renewed push to get the president out of Washington. The capital is consumed with the investigation into Russian meddling in last years election and Trumps firing of his FBI director, James Comey.

Iowa, with its large share of independent voters, could be a proving ground for whether Trump can count on the support of voters beyond his base. Unaffiliated voters, or no party voters as they are known in Iowa, make up 36% of the electorate, compared with 33% who registered as Republican and 31% registered as Democrat.

Self-identified independents in Iowa voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by a margin of 13 percentage points last year, according to exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and television networks. That margin helped Trump take the state by nearly nine points after Barack Obama won it the previous two elections.

Trump held a Des Moines rally in December as part of his transition-era thank you tour of states he had won, but has not been back to Iowa since.

At the rally, he touted his administrations efforts to roll back regulations, mused about putting solar panels on a Mexican border wall, derided wind power for killing birds in a state that uses a lot of it and revealed that he urged the Senate to create a health care plan with heart. Add some money to it!

He avoided any discussion of the scandals surrounding his presidency, other than one brief reference to the witch hunt, his term for the inquiries into his campaigns ties to Russia.

Associated Press contributed to this report

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/22/donald-trump-says-he-doesnt-want-a-poor-person-in-cabinet-roles

Georgia special election: Republican Karen Handel beats Jon Ossoff in runoff

Sporadic downpours and flash flood warnings helped to put a damper on Democratic turnout in base precincts

In Georgia the resistance was stopped by the rain on Tuesday when Jon Ossoff, long the best hope of Democrats to win a special election in the Trump administration, suffered a narrow loss to Republican Karen Handel in the Sixth Congressional District.

With 99% of precincts reporting, Handel had 52.4% and Ossoff had 47.6%

Sporadic downpours and flash flood warnings helped to put a damper on Democratic turnout in base precincts and on the hopes of progressives to thwart Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Combined with an energized Republican base that kept Ossoff from accumulating a significant lead among early voters, it doomed the hopes of the anti-Trump activists who made the first time Democratic candidate a minor political celebrity.

The runoff came after a first round of voting in April where Ossoff won just over 48% of the vote and Handel finished second in a splintered Republican field with just under 20% of the vote. However, Ossoff struggled to match that total as Handel consolidated the Republican vote in a traditionally conservative district in the northern suburbs of Atlanta andended up falling a percentage point short of his much hyped performance in the first round of voting.

Trump took to Twitter to hail the result as a personal victory Thank you @FoxNews Huge win for President Trump and GOP in Georgia Congressional Special Election.

The seat had been vacated by Tom Price when the former congressman joined Trumps cabinet to become secretary of health and human services and previously held by Republican stalwarts like Senator Johnny Isakson and former speaker Newt Gingrich. Although Price won by 23% in 2016, Donald Trump only narrowly won this wealthy, well-educated district by just over 1%.

Trumps narrow win sparked optimism among Democrats that the district, where nearly 60% of residents have a college degree, could flip as part of the political realignment around the presidents upset victory in 2016. Roughly $50m ended up being spent by both parties and allied groups in the race as it became the most expensive congressional campaign in the history of the United States.

However, while Democrats had motivated their base and won over skeptical Republicans, the conservative slant of district proved too much even for the nearly unprecedented resources that Democrats invested in the race, even flying in volunteers for last minute doorknocking as local television stations had been saturated by 30-second advertisements.

Although the race had been cast a referendum on Trump an opinion the President seemed to endorse after the result had been reported both candidates awkwardly danced around his looming presence on the campaign trail. At Handels campaign events, Trumps name went unmentioned by the candidate and introductory speakers. Instead, there was constant refrain of attack on Ossoff for his ties to House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and praise for previous holders of the seat like Price and Gingrich. Ossoff was regularly bashed for the amount of money he raised out of state and for having San Francisco values.

Handel, who suggested in the first televised debate of the campaign that Trump should use Twitter less often, told the Guardian in an interview on Monday that she didnt pay attention to the presidents use of social media. She said I am focused on my campaign, I have precious little time to be on Twitter. Several hours later, her campaign sent out a fundraising email signed by the former secretary of state with the subject line did you see what Trump just tweeted? after the President used his ubiquitous social media account to tout her campaign.

Ossoff has also been measured in his attacks on Trump in a traditionally Republican district albeit one that the president barely won in 2016. Instead, the lanky and measured political neophyte focused on banal and politically non-controversial issues like government waste and turning Atlanta into the Silicon Valley of the South and let the progressive anti-Trump enthusiasm of the Democratic base carry him.

Instead, he has focused on Handels stint as Georgia secretary of state as well as her brief stint with the Susan Komen Race For The Cure, a charity which combats breast cancer, where she led an effort to cut off the organizations funding for Planned Parenthood. The decision sparked a major controversy and funding was eventually restored and Handel had to resign from the non-profit.

In an interview with the Guardian, Ossoff slammed his opponent. Secretary Handels record as secretary of state is extremely weak perhaps because she was too busy preparing her next run for higher office to do her job. She quit her job early to run for higher office, as so many career politicians do. Her last significant private sector experience, her performance also lacked.

The issue of civility and the growing toxic nature of American political culture became an issue late in the race in the aftermath of the shooting of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. Handel pointed to social media and journalism as reasons for the decline of civility in American society in an interview with the Guardian. Journalism is not journalism any more, said Handel. Ossoff stuck to broader themes, telling the Guardian, this is a deep rooted problem in American politics right now which is going to take work and bipartisan commitment to trying to heal wounds and focus on substance instead of fear mongering and slander.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/21/georgia-special-election-republican-karen-handel-beats-jon-ossoff-in-runoff

Trump’s budget: major slashes to social programs but $1.6bn for the wall

Millions of people stand to lose Medicaid access, alongside cuts to welfare and food stamps, under a proposed budget that still has numerous hurdles to jump

Donald Trump will embrace hardline right-wing economics on Tuesday with a budget that proposes swingeing cuts to social safety net programmes while allocating $1.6bn to a border wall.

Millions of people would lose access to Medicaid, the government insurance programme for the poorest and many disabled Americans. Food stamps for people on low incomes would be cut over the next 10 years under the White House plan and the families of undocumented workers would be frozen out of key tax breaks.

We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programmes or the number of people on those programmes, budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters. Were going to measure compassion and success by the number of people we help get off of those programmes to get back in charge of their own lives. Were not going to measure our success by how much money we spend but by how many people we actually help.

The Trump blueprint is unlikely to become law because it will face opposition from both moderate Republicans and Democrats worried about its social impact and from fiscal conservatives who fear it will increase the deficit.

Chuck Schumer, Democratic minority leader in the Senate, condemned the proposed cuts to Medicaid. This would pull the rug out from so many Americans who need help: those suffering from opioid and heroin addiction, people in nursing homes and their families who care for them, the elderly, the disabled, and children, he said on the Senate floor.
Medicaid helps not only the poor but increasingly the middle class, as well as 1.75m veterans, Schumer added. Heres what candidate Trump said when he campaigned: Im not going to cut social security like every other Republican and Im not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. He promised he would help take care of those suffering from opioid addiction. If it cuts Medicaid, hes breaking that promise right in half.

Economic experts were also quick to dismiss Mulvaneys claims that Trumps tax plans and budget would boost economic growth to 3%, balancing the federal budget within a decade.

Although Trump is an unconventional president, the budget shares much with the conservative orthodoxy of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It is entitled A New Foundation for American Greatness and Mulvaney said if he had a subtitle it would be, The taxpayer first budget.

Budget
Budget director Mick Mulvaney. We need everybody to pull in the same direction. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Cuts to Medicaid over the next decade exceed even the more than the $800bn reductions contained in a health bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The president also aims to slash welfare by $274bn over a decade, including $193bn on food stamps, driving millions of people off the programme. This would be several times bigger than cuts attempted by House Republicans in the past. The number of people claiming food stamps spiked to 47m people at the height of the 2007-08 recession and had not come down as expected, still totalling 44m people, Mulvaney said, despite near full employment in the US.

Some $72bn over 10 years would come from social securitys disability insurance programme, including $50bn in savings which would be achieved by helping recipients get off the programme and find a job.

Mulvaney continued: If youre on food stamps and youre able bodied, we need you to go to work. If youre on disability insurance and youre not supposed to be, if youre not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work.

He added: Theres a dignity to work and theres a necessity to work to help the country and succeed and we need everybody to pull in the same direction.

The Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Credit would be limited to those who are authorised to work in the US. They would be required to show proof of a social security number a move that would have a negative impact on children who are US citizens but whose parents are undocumented.

I could ask you for your money I think, in good faith and good conscience, and say, Look, I need to take some of your money and give it to this family, who deserves the Child Tax Credit, but I cant do it to give the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is designed to help folks who work, to give it somebody whos in the country and working illegally. Its just not fair. Its not right when you look at it through the perspective of the people paying the taxes.

Trump would also reduce federal employee pensions and farm subsidies while keeping campaign pledges to leave core Medicare and social security benefits for the elderly untouched.

He also promised a groundbreaking proposal to provide six weeks of paid family leave to new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents, championed by Trumps daughter, Ivanka, and costing $25bn over 10 years.

Mulvaney confirmed that the budget plan defunds Planned Parenthood, on the premise that the American Health Care Act will become law, and winds down the support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which feeds the money to outlets such as the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.

The blueprint also shaves 31.4% off funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and 29.1% off that for the state department and other international programmes.

The cuts to domestic spending would be redirected to the US military, law enforcement and supporting veterans. It allocates $2.6bn to border security, including $1.6bn for the bricks and mortar construction of a wall on the Mexican border, with the remaining $1m allotted to technology and infrastructure.

But the plan a wish list to fund the Trump agenda faces numerous hurdles. The healthcare bill is likely to undergo significant changes in the Senate while a rewrite of the tax code only has a broad outline so far. It also makes assumptions about growth.

People
People protest the Trump administrations bid to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Photograph: David Mcnew/AFP/Getty Images

Mulvaney said Trumps package of spending cuts and tax breaks would boost the USs economys growth rate to 3% over the next decade, a considerable increase from the 1.9% forecast under current policy by the Congressional Budget Office.

The director, due to testify to the House and Senate this week, said: I think what Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of is an effort to get to sustained 3% economic growth in this country again. I think its sad that the previous administration was willing to admit that we couldnt get better than 1.9% growth over the next 10 years … That assumes a pessimism about America, about the economy, about its people, about its culture that were simply refusing to accept. We believe that we can get to 3% growth.

But economists were skeptical of the claim. Gus Faucher, PNC Financial Services chief economist said US productivity growth had averaged 1.75% over the last 45 years and that the period between the late 1990s and early 2000s when growth topped 3% was the exception. Its asking a lot to expect the exception not the rule, said Faucher.

Marc Goldwein, head of policy at non-partisan thinktank Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the budgets numbers did not add up. He said Mulvaneys promise of returning to the 3% growth rates were unrealistic at best.

We are not bringing the 90s back, he said. Three percent was normal then because the baby boomers were in their prime and we had a tech boom. Now baby boomers are aging out of the workforce and the tech booms impact has fizzled, Trumps budget would likely add decimal points not percentage points to US growth, he said.

This is like pretending you have won the lottery when all you have is a handful of scratch cards, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/22/donald-trump-budget-proposal-2018-social-care-border-wall