Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Last Call For Maximum Clownage

The Donald is running for The Presidency, and The Zandar will never, ever run out of material for The Blog.

The real estate mogul and TV reality star launched his presidential campaign Tuesday, ending more than two decades of persistent flirtation with the idea of running for the Oval Office. 
"So, ladies and gentlemen, I am officially running for president of the United States, and we are going to make our country great again," Trump told the crowd, in a lengthy and meandering speech that hit on his signature issues like currency manipulation from China and job creation, as well as taking shots at the President and his 2016 competitors. 
"Sadly the American dream is dead," Trump said at the end of his speech, promising to bring it back to life with his run. 
Just over four years after he came closer than ever to launching a campaign before bowing out, Trump made his announcement at the lavish Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, laying out a vision to match his incoming campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." 
The 68-story tower venue Trump used Tuesday is more than just the backdrop to Trump's presidential announcement, instead becoming a physical embodiment of what Trump is bringing to the table and the challenges he'll face as he formally entered politics. 
Trump has already billed himself as the "most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far," pointing out even that he owns a "Gucci store that's worth more than Romney."

On one hand, the guy is the epitome of American moneyball politics in 2015.  America really does deserve this guy as President.  On the other hand, I live in America and I'd rather it not become a smoking wasteland of Trump-style capitalism.

On the gripping hand, this is the joker who figured out how to mismanage casinos so badly that he bankrupted four of them, so he's perfect for Chief Executive of the United States.

Big winners: me, and every late-night comedy writer for the next 17 months.  Losers: all the other GOP candidates, who will constantly be asked "Do you agree with Donald Trump's (horribly racist/sexist/insulting/stupid) position on X?"

This would be loads of fun, if it wasn't so serious.

Losing The Right To Vote

Over at The Hill, Juan Williams puts the rise of voter ID laws squarely on the backs of black voters, most of whom agree that voter ID should be necessary, and blames us for being ignorant of history.

Why are Democrats losing the debate over voting rights? 
The biggest political fight shaping the 2016 campaigns for the White House and Senate is over limiting the Democrats’ base of likely voters.

President Obama twice won the White House by bringing more young people and minorities, his biggest supporters, into the political process — and into the voting booth. Republicans are now pushing back to increase their electoral chances in 2016.

And they are winning.

Even most black Americans — people who, overwhelmingly, don’t vote Republican — currently favor new requirements for voters to have photo identification. Three-quarters of all voters — people of all races and political parties — favor such laws, according to polls
The black support for photo identification of voters can only be described as amazing.

For most of the twentieth century, violence, poll taxes and literacy tests were used by segregationists to deny black people the right to vote.

The current state of public opinion, including among the black community, is doubly incredible because there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud anywhere in the nation.
Williams goes on to point out that 71% of black voters and 55% of Democrats favor voter ID laws, but I don't think it's fair to pin this on black voters when all US groups favor them.  We need to educate everyone on what Republicans are doing with voter ID laws.

Williams is at least getting the ball rolling here, but blaming black America for voter ID laws is a bit like blaming black America for Jim Crow laws. We didn't pass them, Republicans did, in states controlled by Republican lawmakers voted into power by white voters.

There's a difference.

Like A Kansas Tornado, Con't.

Kansas Republicans have finally passed their nearly $400 million tax hike on the state's working class to make up for the hundreds of millions in the hole that GOP Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cut for the rich and businesses created, in an effort to avoid even more draconian cuts to schools and universities.

Kansas will avoid massive budget cuts after a tax plan crawled to passage in the Legislature on Friday, but some lawmakers who voted for the plan say the state has failed to right its financial ship. 
Many lawmakers — including ones who supported the bills — accused Gov. Sam Brownback of bullying lawmakers into accepting a flawed plan. 
Republicans, who hold supermajorities in the Kansas House and Senate, found themselves bitterly divided on taxes for weeks in the face of a $400 million budget hole as the legislative session stretched to 113 days, the longest in state history. 
The House scraped together the 63 votes needed for passage at 4 a.m. Friday, passing a plan that raises $384.4 million in tax revenue, after working around the clock since Wednesday night. Several lawmakers who voted for the plan were moved to tears before Rep. Blake Carpenter, a Derby Republican, cast the deciding vote. 
Little more than 12 hours later, the Senate approved the plan with 21 votes, again the bare minimum for passage, after an emotional debate. But even some lawmakers who voted in favor of the plan argued that it failed to address the cause of the state’s financial woes. 
Sen. Jeff Longbine, an Emporia Republican, accused the Brownback administration of perpetrating “political blackmail” in recent weeks by threatening to veto any plan that rolled back an income tax exemption for certain businesses. That exception was passed in 2012 and removed more than 330,000 business owners from income tax rolls. 
“This fix doesn’t fix the problem,” Longbine said. “If you’ve got congestive heart failure, you go to the cardiologist and not the dentist.” 
The 2012 tax bill also eliminated the top tax bracket and cut all income tax rates. Longbine pointed out that it has already cost the state more than $1 billion, but argued that the plan passed by the Legislature through a pair of tax bills Friday failed to address that impact. 
The measures will instead raise the sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent in July and hike taxes on cigarettes by 50 cents per pack to help balance the state’s budget. 
Longbine said he wanted to watch the plan burn but voted in favor of it to prevent cuts to the state’s schools, universities and disability services. 
Brownback had warned that if lawmakers did not pass a tax plan before Monday, then he would make massive budget cuts — either issuing a 6.2 percent across-the-board cut costing schools nearly $200 million, or line-item vetoes of budgets for the state’s regents universities.
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article23831500.html#storylink=cpy

The Kansas disaster continues, and I'm betting that the hike in sales and vice taxes, a regressive taxation scheme targeting the poor and working class, won't bring in the projected revenue just as the massive tax cuts on the wealthy didn't magically create new revenue either.  Somehow I bet Topeka will be right back in the same hole soon, and when it does, raising taxes on those who can afford it the least won't work.

But this is what happens when you give the GOP total control of a state: guaranteed absolute fiscal disaster. The Nation's Kai Wright looks at the people who are suffering in Kansas under the Brownback administration, like RaDonna Kuekelhan and her sister Cathy O'Mara.

The sisters drove 30 miles from Cathy’s house down to the nearest CHC clinic, in Montgomery County’s largest town, Coffeyville. There, they met Julie Griffin, the doctor in charge. Griffin is also an evangelical minister, and as with many of the people I met in socially conservative southeast Kansas, Brownback’s politics force a tension in her core values. She’s resolutely pro-life and supports Brownback for his famously firm stance against abortion. But for her, valuing life means valuing universal access to healthcare, too. And she blames southeast Kansas’ ailing health on a toxic mix of poverty and political neglect. 
“If you can’t find a job, you can’t feed your kids, you don’t feel like there’s any help for your kid in terms of success, that’s going to affect your mental health,” she says in a typically energetic riff about the challenges her patients face. “And if you don’t take care of your mental health, then your diabetes is going to be a thousand times worse.” She says much of her work is a matter of convincing patients to fight for their own lives, despite the dearth of care. She can call the roll of uninsured patients she’s coaxed away from preventable death, only to have them tumble back to grave illness when they grow defeated because she’s run out of subsidized meds or can’t connect them with a free specialist: “People that didn’t want to take care of their diabetes because there’s no hope anyways.” 
Griffin immediately saw this grim potential in RaDonna and began scrambling. She sent the sisters on a 65-mile trek over the border to Joplin, Missouri, where she found specialists at a private hospital who would see RaDonna without insurance. “We went there for a year, back and forth,” RaDonna says. “We went to a throat doctor, went to a lung specialist, a stomach guy,” Cathy chimes in. Finally, they discovered the problem: All that radiation to clear RaDonna’s larynx cancer had destroyed her esophagus. 
“The top of her throat is paralyzed,” Cathy explains. “Everything that she puts into her mouth and swallows, some of it aspirates down into her lungs. They told me that she is ‘terminal’—that was their words to me. ‘Your sister is terminal. We don’t know how long she will live. She will either slowly starve to death or she will aspirate and choke to death.’” 
RaDonna was too young to collect Social Security, and she was trying to survive on a $231-a-month pension from Emerson. Despite her diagnosis and collapsing income, as a single adult she still didn’t qualify for Medicaid. The only way into Kansas’ program was to qualify for disability—and in 2013 the state rejected her application. “They denied it,” says Cathy, still angry. “They said she was not ill enough.

Kansas is red state America at its finest: rejection of Obamacare grant money, full privatization of the state's Medicare program, massive tax cuts for "job creators" and budget cuts to get rid of "unnecessary spending", with a Republican supermajority in the state legislature and a GOP governor.

The results speak for themselves, don't you think?


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