Just because Republicans relied on Russian interference to win the 2016 Presidential election doesn’t mean they’ve exhausted their means of winning elections. As of March 4, the federal government hadn’t spent a dime of the $120 million allotted to fight foreign election interference, according to The Hill. And according to The Nation, the Republican-majority Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act to provide 868 fewer places to vote, most in areas with strong minority populations. The United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has even stifled voter registration efforts of minorities. But Republicans put all their eggs in winning the Presidency basket because it would allow them to use the 2020 census to their advantage.
Brookings Institution demographer William Frey projects that whites will become the minority in the under-18 age group in 2020 and that the white share of the population will fall under 60 percent for the first time. So if Republicans can’t convince minorities to support them, they have to do what they can to preserve the illusion that their base is not dwindling.
The census is more than just a means of determining America’s population and demographics. It determines the number of Congressional representatives and electoral votes states receive, how $675 billion in federal funding is allocated to states and cities annually for schools, public housing, roads and health care, and how states will redraw local and federal voting districts.
For instance, if the 2020 census is conducted fairly, Election Data Services expects Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Alabama to lose one Congressional seat each. Those nine Congressional seats would most likely be redistributed to Texas, receiving three, Florida, receiving two, and Oregon, Colorado, Arizona and North Carolina all receiving one.
But minority populations tend to be undercounted and white populations overcounted during the census. According to Mother Jones, the 2010 census overcounted white residents by nearly one percent and failed to count 1.5 million people of color. This leads to minority populations being under-represented in Congress and under-served by federal funding. And the Trump Administration plans to rig the census like never before.
The census is not a count of Americans, but a count of people residing in America. It is a count of American-born citizens and illegal immigrants alike. And while federal law prohibits the census bureau from sharing data with anyone, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, most illegal immigrants don’t know that and are naturally afraid of completing the census. They are probably more aware that the Secret Service used census data to round up Japanese Americans and send them to internment camps during World War II, or that failure to answer a census question could result in a fine of up to $100. Immigrants should know that skipping the question won’t likely result in a fine, and your census response will be counted whether you answer the citizenship question or not. Instead, some immigrants actually up and move upon being interviewed, and Census Bureau data shows that undocumented immigrants are “hard to count.”
The state of California has the most to lose if a citizenship question is added to the census, which Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross has already announced will be the case for the first time since 1950, citing the aforementioned Voting Rights Act as a reason for the addition. California and 13 other states are suing the federal government over the citizenship question in fear of losing federal funds and representation because of their large, foreign-born populations. According to Mother Jones, “California’s finance office estimates the state will lose $1,900 annually for each uncounted resident in 2020.”
Worst yet for California is that 20 percent of its residents live in hard-to-count areas, “where more than a quarter of all households failed to mail back their 2010 census forms, including a third of Latinos and African Americans.” California has 10 of the 50 counties in the country with the lowest census response rates -- home to 8.4 million people -- a population larger than that of 38 states, so you can see why the state is suing over the census citizenship question.
Just like the Environmental Protection Agency, Republicans have cut funding for the Census Bureau to basically make it dysfunctional. Back in 2012, despite objections by the Obama Administration, Congress told the Census Bureau to spend less money on the 2020 census than it had in 2010. This is after the Census Bureau failed to count 1.5 million minority residents of the United States.
With Donald Trump taking office, Congress cut the bureau’s budget another 10 percent and gave it no additional funding for 2018 -- a time the bureau generally receives a major budget boost to prepare for the census. Now the Census Bureau has half as many regional centers and field offices as it did in 2010, and the 2020 census will be conducted with 300,000 enumerators -- 200,000 fewer than in 2010.
At the same time 10 years ago, there were 120 Census Bureau employees; there are currently 40. And the $340 million promotional ad campaign for the 2010 census will likely go towards working out the kinks of the new technology replacing the boots on the ground.
The result of less funding is an investment in technology instead of people. For the first time, the U.S. census survey will be made available online in 2020. Instead of carrying clipboards, census enumerators will carry tablets, and regardless of the vulnerability of the 2020 census data to foreign interference and hacking, people will be missed, even with the increased availability an online survey provides. That is, if the software works. If the online census rollout is anything like the Healthcare.gov rollout, the 2020 census could be a complete disaster.
Planning and testing for the 2020 census has also taken a big hit by budget limitations. Field tests in Puerto Rico and on Native American reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington were cancelled last year, and two of three rehearsals planned for this April were also cancelled.
While traditional paper surveys will be mailed to 20 percent of American households that have poor internet access, “36 percent of African Americans and 30 percent of Hispanics have neither a computer nor broadband internet at home, and a Pew Research Center survey published last year found that more than a third of Americans making less than $30,000 a year lack smartphones,” according to Mother Jones. So people will be missed by the Census Bureau, and the people most likely to be missed are minorities.
You can help make sure the 2020 census is accurate by, first, filling out the census form. Whether you’re a legal resident of the United States, a foreign visitor with a temporary work visa, or an illegal immigrant, you should complete the 2020 census survey.
You can also make sure your neighbors complete the census by making them aware of the importance of the census, and that your community’s Congressional representation and federal funding depends on it. You can assure your foreign-born neighbors that census data won’t be shared with ICE or any other agency, and that skipping the citizenship question won’t disqualify your census response. You can also organize a series of census survey days at your local library so those without internet access or a home address can complete the 2020 census.
You don’t have to be a hired enumerator for the Census Bureau to make sure the 2020 census is accurate, but if you’re interested in serving as a census enumerator, follow this link. If you speak a second language, that would make you an ideal candidate in states with high immigrant populations.
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While United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era, federal protections for recreational marijuana businesses and users in states that have adopted legal cannabis legislation, that won’t affect states’ medical marijuana providers and users -- at least until Jan. 19.
Indications are that medical marijuana will be off the table when it comes to the Justice Department’s crackdown on cannabis. President Donald Trump went on the record in support of medical marijuana prior to the election, so it’s unlikely Sessions would act in a manner that could jeopardize his President’s reelection chances any further. But if Congress can’t come to an agreement to fund the government before Jan. 19, the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment prohibiting the Justice Department from spending federal funds to interfere with states’ implementation and enforcement of medical cannabis laws will expire.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment must be renewed each fiscal year to remain in effect, and is usually done so through omnibus spending bills. It was most recently renewed in a stopgap spending bill on Dec. 22, which expires Jan. 19. So if Congress fails to pass a budget for the fiscal year or at least another stopgap spending bill to fund the government temporarily, medical marijuana providers and patients will no longer be protected by Rohrabacher-Farr and subject to federal prosecution.
Sessions is making sure the Justice Department is prepared for the opportunity to enforce federal cannabis law. He appointed 17 interim U.S. attorneys general just days prior to rescinding the protections for recreational cannabis providers and users. The 17 temporary appointees can serve for 120 days before Trump must nominate permanent U.S. attorneys and seek to have them confirmed by the Senate. Sessions has empowered all 94 U.S. attorneys to enforce cannabis law as they see fit.
Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado said he would block Trump's Justice Department judicial nominees until the decision is reversed. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a state where cannabis is legal to use by adults, insists that protecting states with legal cannabis legislation should be part of budget negotiations to avoid a government shutdown. If the government shuts down, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would continue to be funded, so raids of both recreational and medical marijuana providers would be a possibility. Even if Sessions doesn’t crackdown on cannabis, he’s given Republicans some leverage in negotiating a new budget to fund the government. Perhaps in exchange for continued protection for medical and recreational marijuana states, Trump will get his border wall funded.
Regardless, medical and recreational marijuana providers and users haven’t been this vulnerable since before Rohrabacher-Farr went into effect in December of 2014. If the bipartisan condemnation of Sessions’ decision is any indication of what’s to come, protecting cannabis markets, both medical and recreational, will be a top priority over the next week.
As of January 2017, recreational cannabis markets had created 123,000 full-time jobs in America, and a recent report by New Frontier Data forecasts that tax revenues from legal marijuana sales were $559 million in 2017.
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With the Republicans’ tax bill set to become law on Jan. 1, you have just a few days left to prepay your 2018 property taxes before the federal cap on your state and local tax deduction goes into effect. The Republicans’ tax bill will cap the state and local tax deductions on federal tax returns at $10,000.
Thomas Mould, a certified public accountant of Valley Accounting and Tax in Apple Valley, Minn., said the $10,000 cap applies to all state taxes, including income tax. So if you pay a combined $10,000 in state and local property taxes and state income taxes, you’ll probably want to prepay your 2018 property taxes today.
Most people don’t have a state and local tax bill over $10,000, but those who do should take advantage of the uncapped deduction for property tax payments one last time. People living in high-tax states like New York and California should be the first to jump at the opportunity. Oregon, Maryland and Minnesota also have high income tax rates, but some states are still sorting out how they’ll handle pre-payment of property taxes and whether they will recognize the deduction.
Some states have made their intentions clear. Oregon, for example, is not allowing or recognizing prepayment of property taxes. However, New Jersey’s Governor just issued an executive order allowing the prepayment and deduction at the State level.
Mould said three of the four counties he contacted in Minnesota will take a prepayment on 2018 property taxes but wouldn’t tell him whether that prepayment would be recognized as income by the County, ensuring deductibility by the IRS. So states are scrambling to find answers for citizens with just days to determine whether prepaying 2018 property taxes will payoff for them next year. Small businesses shouldn’t be as confused, though.
“If the business itself...is subject to taxation, then there’s no limit on the state taxes. But if all the taxes are paid at the personal level, then the $10,000 cap would apply,” Mould informed.
Translation: if your business is taxed as a corporate entity, then the $10,000 state and local tax cap doesn’t apply to you. But if you run a sole proprietorship, then the $10,000 cap on your state and local tax deduction does apply.
So do your due diligence and determine whether prepaying your 2018 property taxes will save you money come tax season next year, and if you intend to start a sole proprietorship in 2018, keep in mind that your state and local tax deduction will be capped at $10,000, and it might be worth paying your 2018 property taxes ahead of time.
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If the 2017 elections are any indication of what’s to come in the 2018 midterms, Republicans are in trouble, and not because of a clean sweep by Democrats in Virginia on Tuesday. It was how Republicans lost on Tuesday, and how badly, that should have them concerned.
The Virginia governor’s race that got all the media attention wasn’t close. Polls had Democrat Ralph Norman leading slightly, but his lead over Republican Ed Gillespie had shrunk from as many as nine points to three or fewer points in a matter of days. Warnings of past polls leaning Left in Virginia gave Republicans hope, but it was false hope, as Norman won by 8.6 percentage points.
The most important election for Democrats on Tuesday was that of Virginia’s attorney general. State attorneys general have been the best (and in many instances the last) line of defense for Democrats against the actions of Donald Trump’s administration, especially the travel ban. Incumbent Democrat Mark Herring beat Republican challenger John Adams by 6.5 percentage points.
Democrat Justin Fairfax completed the clean sweep of Virginia with a win over Republican Jill Vogel to become lieutenant governor. He won by 5.4 percentage points. The real gains for Democrats were made in Virginia’s district elections, though.
The biggest blow for Republicans came in Virginia’s House of Delegates, where they’ve lost 14 seats as of this writing, with two more close races predicted for Democrats and another three tossups predicted to go to Republicans. If Democrats win just one of those Republican-leaning tossups -- perhaps the 94th District, where Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds each have 49 percent of the vote -- the Democratic Party would hold a majority in the Virginia House for the first time since 2000. The wins are especially sweet for Democrats because Republicans experienced their largest majority just last year, holding 67 of the 100 seats.
The success Democrats had in Virginia’s districts is unprecedented. Democrats have never taken back as many Virginia House seats as they did Tuesday. It’s been 40 years since Democrats picked up 13 House seats in the Commonwealth, and they were already starting with a 65-seat majority back then.
The history of Virginia’s House of Delegates is one of epic streaks. Democrats held the majority for a century, and when it flipped to the Republicans, it looked as though it would take another century for Democrats to take back control. It took 100 years for the Virginia House to go from a Democratic majority to a Republican majority and, perhaps, just one night to swing the Virginia House back to the Democrats.
To say the current administration and do-nothing Congress didn’t have something to do with the Republicans’ losses in Virginia would be naive. Trump’s record-low approval rating is representative of the general sentiment of Americans, and with Republicans in the White House, they’re already starting from behind. The party occupying the White House tends to lose more midterm elections than it wins, and those losses are loosely predicated on the President’s approval rating. The effects on voter turnout are already apparent.
Democrats showed up to vote in 2017. Voter turnout was up 16 percent in Virginia compared to the last election for governor in 2013, but that’s nothing when you compare Tuesday’s voter turnout to that of the 2015 election.
Less than 30 percent of registered Virginia voters voted in 2015, which came to a grand total of 1,509,864 voters -- a decrease in voter turnout of over 11 percent from the previous year. Almost 1.1 million more Virginians voted in 2017 than in 2015. That’s a 72 percent increase, so to say Democrats were motivated is an understatement.
Democrats also won the elections they should have in New Jersey and New York, and Maine even expanded Medicaid. But the races that reveal the most about the views of the average American and what the future holds for American elections are those for city council. The ever-changing political leanings of communities debut in city council elections long before they’re seen on the national scale. And no city council election revealed more about the future of American politics than that of Minneapolis’s Ward 3.
Ginger Jentzen, running as a Socialist, received more than a third of first-place votes in a four-candidate race. Since she won the popular vote, Jentzen gets to cannibalize the second- and third- choice votes that went to her from voters whose first choice has no chance of winning. For instance, Samantha Pree-Winston received just 10.5 percent of first-place votes and has no shot at winning the election, so those voters who chose her as their first-choice help decide the election with their second and third choices. Those second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates voters chose as first-choice votes. If there’s still not a candidate with a majority of the vote, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and their second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates they chose as first-place votes.
This is where ranked-choice voting proves its worth at Jentzen’s expense. Jentzen might have won the election using a traditional ballot where voters can choose just one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. But her lack of second- and third-choice votes makes her winning of the popular vote irrelevant, unless she had secured a majority (50 percent plus one vote) in first-choice votes.
Unfortunately for Jentzen, it looks as though she wasn’t many voters’ second or third choice. Jentzen received just 13.7 percent and 18.3 percent of second- and third-choice votes, which makes it difficult for her to pick up the majority needed to win the election. Jentzen’s supporters likely chose just one candidate -- Jentzen -- forgoing their second and third choices, resulting in a lot of first-choice votes and not much else. It’s a sound strategy nonetheless. Jentzen just needed another 1.500 first-place votes or so.
Regardless, the strong showing by Jentzen proves a political point: socialism isn’t a dirty word -- in Minneapolis at least. That might not be saying much given Minnesota’s history of strong unions, but Jentzen’s successful campaign will inspire other Socialists to run for office unafraid of the misinformed perception of their party affiliation. At the very least, this little city council election revealed that Left-leaning voters aren’t afraid of moving further Left than the Democratic Party has been willing to go, which bodes well for Bernie Sanders in 2020.
The Democrats left nothing up for debate on Tuesday. Had they lost any one of the Virginia elections or gained half as many Virginia House seats, Republicans might have been relieved or found reason for hope. Instead, they can see the train coming and can’t get off the tracks.
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Now that Republicans’ plans to repeal and replace Obamacare are all but dead, GOP Congress-men and -women will be working to preserve their jobs by accomplishing something -- anything. Now it seems the Republican budget proposals will get in the way of their next big project -- tax reform. But there is a lifeboat out there for Republicans, if they’re willing to accept a hand from a Democrat.
Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) reintroduced S. 3529, otherwise known as the Progressive Consumption Tax Act (PCTA), back in December. And while the bill wouldn’t do what many Republicans would like and get rid of the Internal Revenue Service, it would re-purpose and shrink the IRS and make tax collection a lot easier. It would also make it so most people would no longer owe individual income taxes, and it would reduce the corporate income tax rate to one of the lowest among industrialized nations.
“How?” you ask. Well, revenue once created by income taxes would be replaced by revenue created through a consumption tax, which is a tax on goods and services consumed rather than a tax on income. It’s a lot like a sales tax, except Cardin has proposed what’s called a value added tax.
A value added tax is collected from each producer involved in the production chain of a product rather than the end consumer. So if a manufacturer buys $40-worth of product from other manufacturers earlier in the production chain, puts its own labor and materials into it and sells it for $100, the value added by that manufacturer is $60.
Why a value added tax? It’s more likely to be paid. Compliance is believed to be better when the tax is collected at all stages of production rather than the final stage, when the product is purchased by a consumer from a retailer. Both a retail tax and value added tax would produce identical revenue if compliance is perfect, and collecting at all stages of production would help ensure that is the case.
Cardin’s proposed a 10-percent, flat tax because it simplifies taxation, facilitates compliance and enforcement, and doesn’t allow for distortions based on product type. The few exemptions to the consumption tax are financial services, “which are difficult to handle within a VAT and are often exempted, residential rents, and sales of existing residential housing.” So you won’t pay taxes for your accountant or broker, rent or mortgage, or the sale of your home.
According to the independent and nonprofit Tax Foundation’s Taxes and Growth Model (TAG), the plan would raise the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) 4.4 percent, increase the stock of capital used in production by 15.2 percent, and create 1.1 million jobs. It would also increase after-tax income for rich and poor, so every American would have more money with which to stimulate the economy. In fact, real after-tax hourly wages would increase 6.5 percent.
That all sounds great, right? But will it pay the bills? In short, yes. Cardin’s plan is designed to raise at least as much revenue as the current income tax system does, and the rate can be altered, but the revenue created can never be more than 10 percent of GDP. That doesn’t mean the percentage can’t increase, but the U.S. tax revenue as a percent of GDP was 26.4 percent in 2015. Cardin’s plan would refund taxpayers any revenue over 10 percent of GDP.
Do you see how Cardin’s plan creates more revenue despite a lower percentage of GDP? Tax revenue, whether a consumption tax or income tax, is linked to economic growth. The more economic growth, the more tax revenue. Increasing the U.S. GDP 4.4 percent is no small feat. As of 2015 numbers that’s almost $800 billion, which would cover the entirety of the Republicans’ proposed military budget and then some ($621.5 billion).
Why should Congress enact a consumption tax? Well, much like healthcare, the United States is behind a lot of developed countries when it comes to taxation. About 150 countries have a consumption tax, most of which were established decades ago.
The consumption tax would also allow the U.S. to tax imports and subsidize exports without violating current World Trade Organization rules (WTO), which Donald Trump would love, even though economic theory indicates a border adjustment tax would end up trade neutral. But that’s what House Republicans want, even though, “Economists can show that the House Republican plan has the same effect as abolishing the corporate tax altogether, introducing a VAT, and then cutting payroll taxes.”
That makes the Republicans’ border adjustment tax nothing more than a political ploy that plays to its base, but that’s what Republicans need -- a political ploy that plays to its base. That and an accomplishment like tax reform. It ain’t gonna be healthcare or a budget anytime soon. So work together, Congress, and we can all get what we want.
Enacting a consumption tax is about as bipartisan as it gets. Republicans get to help corporations. Democrats get to help the poor, and Republican Congress-men and -women might get to keep their jobs. But apparently it’s a nonstarter for most Republicans -- unless you tell them otherwise. You can use Countable to keep your Congress-men and -women accountable to you. I urge you to contact them and tell them you want a progressive consumption tax. It will save every American money, and allows Americans to save and invest.
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Now that we know Donald Trump's budget would increase the deficit and do little to improve the economy according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, you can expect fixed costs like energy and transportation to cut into the average American’s income even more so than in the past. In fact, the Trump administration made a $3.7 trillion mistake in its budget, which is far larger than the $776 billion and and $303 billion mistakes the Obama administration made with its budgets.
While the bulk of Trump’s proposed cuts in energy are research programs at the Energy Department ($3.1 billion, an 18 percent cut in budget) seeking ways to decrease carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants and more efficient batteries for electric cars, programs that actually help Americans save money on energy will also be eliminated.
The Energy Star program, with which you’re likely familiar, costs about $50 million annually, but will be cut from the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget despite the EPA estimating that the program helped American consumers and businesses save $34 billion in energy costs and prevent more than 300 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That little blue label won’t be there to tell you whether the appliance you’re looking to buy meets the EPA’s standards because those standards no longer exist.
The same goes for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which funds energy audits of homes inhabited by low-income Americans and the installation of energy efficient additions like attic insulation and plastic over windows. Those workers are doing a lot more than installing plastic over windows, though. They also address health and safety issues by fixing broken windows, replacing faulty water heaters, repairing holes in roofs as well as installing other protective measures.
WAP cost $193 million in 2015, and the it estimates that for every dollar invested in the program, it returns $1.65 in energy-related benefits. In the past 31 years, 6.2 million low-income families have taken advantage of the program, which also produces “non-energy” benefits of an additional $1.07 per dollar invested. By lowering energy bills on average of $413 per year, low-income Americans have more income with which to stimulate the economy. But not anymore, which is likely why the CBO doesn’t see any improvement to the economy in Trump’s budget.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) received $280 million in 2015, and its budget will also be cut entirely. ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment, so cutting it would put more strain on technology businesses, resulting in higher costs for consumers.
The loan program that has made fuel-efficient vehicles more affordable, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, would also be cut. Luckily, according to its website, the program has $16 billion in loan authority remaining, despite loaning Ford Motor Company $5.9 billion in 2009. The scrapping of the program will also make it harder for the average American to afford fuel-efficient vehicles.
Finally, Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes the U.S. Department of Energy to support innovative clean energy technologies that are typically unable to obtain conventional private financing due to high technology risks through the issue of loans. Those loans will no longer be made available.
So that’s what’s happening to the U.S. energy budget. No more investing in American energy unless it comes in the form of decayed dinosaurs. But with fossil fuel exploration and drilling increasing, the price of fuel should go down, right? Well, the real price of gasoline and diesel fuel is already below nominal prices, which means they’re likely to increase to at least the nominal price.
Then there’s the U.S. transportation budget, or lack thereof. While shifting air traffic control to a nonprofit organization would transfer thousands of workers off the government payroll, it could impact smaller airports providing cheaper flights, which means more expensive rates for you. The elimination of $175 million in subsidies for commercial flights to rural airports will hurt rural Americans especially.
Also being eliminated is funding for many new transit projects and support for long-distance Amtrak trains, which, of course, would make Americans more car-dependent, and by design, more fossil-fuel dependent. Worst yet, the roads Americans will be forced to drive won’t be getting any better. The Republicans’ budget would cut $499 million from the TIGER grant program despite skyrocketing demand. The Department of Transportation received 585 eligible applications from all 50 States, and several U.S. territories, tribal communities, cities, and towns throughout the United States, collectively requesting over $9.3 billion in funding in 2016.
So how do we as Americans manage to get to and from the places we need or want to go with energy costs, both in the form of electricity and fuel, and transportation costs, both in the form of planes and trains, increasing? Well, here are 5 ways to save money despite budget cuts to energy and transportation.
If your roundtrip is under 10 miles, you need not drive. Get out the bicycle, put on the padded underwear and a helmet and take your share of the roads. I recommend wearing padded underwear if you intend to cycle for an hour or more. It generally only takes an hour to go 10 miles on a bike, and with a caddie and saddlebags, you can carry a towel and fresh clothes to change into once you arrive at your destination. Do not wear a backpack! You’ll regret it the moment you get a mile from home.
Not all of us live close enough to the places we frequent to do so on bicycle. But there are other people taking a similar trip. Mobile devices with unlimited data have made social circles a whole lot bigger than the water cooler at the office. Just because no one in your office goes by your house on their way to work doesn’t mean you can’t carpool.
Carpooling apps are becoming more popular in metro areas, with New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. already being served by Via. But growth of carpool communities is dependent on us as Americans to make them viable options. Apps like Duet and Waze need demand to be useful, and if we’re all set on wasting money and killing the Earth by driving our cars to work everyday, they might never be available in your area. So sign up to either drive or ride with all the carpool apps and share them with your friends on social media so we can grow the carpooling communities and all save on transportation.
In the future, your self-driving car will simply go out and drive people to work while you’re at work or asleep. Until then, we’ll have to take the wheel, both figuratively and literally.
More and more Americans are working from home these days, as employers look to cut costs like rent and energy, and employees look to cut transportation costs. If you do most of your work on a computer or over the phone like me, you can probably negotiate a work-from-home agreement with your boss. You might not be able to work from home everyday, but a few days per week will still save you money on transportation costs. And there’s nothing really like working in bed to the sounds of Rick James on vinyl.
This isn’t going to be feasible for the average American, but for the first time ever, a car doesn’t have to be a liability anymore. Buying an electric vehicle is an investment that will pay for itself. The payback period depends on the car, of course, but it could be as little as eight years for a Kia Soul EV and as many as 30 or more years for the mysterious Tesla Model 3. And if the average American drives 13,474 miles annually, a Model 3 owner will have paid for her car in 30 years. That’s seven years before Model 3 owners will have to worry about investing in replacement batteries given the 484,669-mile projection for the batteries’ ability to retain at least 80 percent of their capacity.
Regardless of where you live, there’s likely an opportunity for you to harness solar or wind to create energy and lower your energy bill. And until Republicans pass a budget, there are still tax incentives and rebates available to you for installing solar arrays and wind turbines. You might as well take advantage of them while you still can, as both technologies have become more affordable to install. Solar installations have dropped nine percent in a year, and wind turbines have dropped more than 60 percent in price since 2009.
The energy companies are doing their best to deter customers from installing renewable energy sources, though. Many are charging flat fees just for hooking up a solar array or wind turbine, and then they’re taking the extra energy you don’t need, but that you provide, and selling it to others. That’s why you should consult an electrician and find things you can run directly from your renewable energy sources if your energy provider is looking to take advantage of you.
Maybe your solar panels charge a battery or generator that runs the lights and electricity in your newly built shop or garage. You can always rewire your solar array or wind turbine into the grid, so don’t give in to paying those flat fees to use your own energy. If we discovered farting in a can could run lights for an hour, the energy companies would find a way to suck the fart out of that can and make you pay rent on the can. Don’t let them get your farts.
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The Senate Republicans’ Better Care Reconciliation Act takes federal money dedicated to America’s poor and gives it to the rich. While Obamacare raised taxes on high-income Americans to subsidize insurance for the poor, the Republicans intend to cut those taxes and reduce federal funding to insure low-income Americans.
So instead of insuring the most Americans and lowering the collective tax burden of uninsured hospital visits, the Republicans’ plan is to insure fewer Americans and increase that collective burden for which we all pay. Those visits by uninsured Americans cost $900 each.
Those likely to be hit hardest are those on Medicaid, which includes nearly 40 percent of all American children. The Republicans are proposing a maximum payment to states per enrollee, and while it’s set to increase annually, it will be at a lower rate than medical costs increase. So Medicaid enrollees will be forced to flip more of the bill or go uninsured. As time goes by, fewer and fewer Americans will be insured, and we’ll be right back in the mess Obamacare fixed.
I realize the Republicans are all about personal responsibility, but they have to realize that many Americans are not personally responsible. A 30-year-old, healthy American who doesn’t partake in dangerous activities (i.e. driving, which is the most dangerous activity) could likely go uninsured and not cost the American taxpayer a dime during the year. But those aren’t the people that caused the health insurance mess in the first place. Insurers have caused this mess, and the Republicans just want to keep paying them more.
The moment this idea for private health insurance came about the average American was screwed. Profiting from people’s health is not unlike the undertaker profiting from death. People will pay anything to live longer, and people will pay just about anything for someone to “make the arrangements” for loved ones who have died. “Just because we’re bereaved doesn’t make us saps!” says Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski. Well, people are saps when faced with death, which is exactly why private insurance is wrong on every level.
Faced with death, money's no object. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, you’d give anything you had to live longer. Republicans realize this and intend to take everything you have so you have nothing to give when faced with death. It’s why they take affordable insurance plans and make them unaffordable behind the guise of “personal responsibility,” and it’s why they move federal dollars from benefiting those who need them most to people who don’t need them at all.
I am one of the 74 million Medicaid enrollees that only has insurance because of Obamacare and because my home state expanded Medicaid. I feel sorry for the states that have elected not to expand Medicaid. I pay $264 annually for health insurance. I have made two doctor’s visits in the last year. Before that I was uninsured and paid nothing. At least now I’m creating revenue and saving the American taxpayer money by not making hospital visits while uninsured.
I will lose insurance because of the Republicans’ bill and won’t feel guilty about costing the American taxpayer money if I’m forced to see a doctor while uninsured. Nobody should. This bill will be a disaster for America, and in five years or so, we’ll be attempting to fix the same problem Obamacare fixed. Hopefully, next time, a Medicaid-for-all plan will be the only one considered. Until then, low- and moderate-income Americans will either pay a higher percentage of their income to private insurance companies or go without, raising the tax burden for all Americans. How is this bill supposed to help everyone again? Oh, right. It’s not about everyone for the Republicans. It’s about them and their deep pockets, and the rich people like them.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, The Easy Organic Gardener, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Good Day Health, MindSet: Mental Health News and Information, Health Hunters, America’s Health Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, The Dr. Bob Martin Show, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show
You might be wondering how Republicans could be better off than owning a majority in both houses of Congress and occupying the White House. Well, they could do it longer. If Georgia’s 6th Congressional district, and even more surprisingly, South Carolina's fifth, are any indication, the Republicans are in for rude awakening in 2018 and 2020.
While Republican Karen Handel won the election, Democrat Jon Ossoff made us all pay attention to a district that’s been nothing but red since Apocalypse Now and Alien were in theaters.
While it’s highly unlikely the Democrats win three of the eight Republican Senate seats up for reelection in 2018 to win a majority, the House is a different story. It doesn’t matter whether Congress repeals and replaces Obamacare. House Republicans are under fire whether they do or don’t. Midterm elections have been historically bad for the party occupying the White House, as was epically the case for Barack Obama in 2014. The average loss of House seats by the party with a newly elected President is 23. There are already 23 House seats held by Republicans in districts Hillary Clinton won, while just 12 that have Democratic representatives and voted Trump.
FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten compared a President’s approval rating to the results in the midterm elections, and despite a large margin for error, (+/- 33 Congressional seats) there was a correlation. And Trump’s residency of the White House has only just begun. After 149 days, Trump’s approval rating, as measured by Gallup, has dropped to 38 percent, and Trump started with the lowest approval rating for any first-term President ever rated (45 percent). Trump has that record by six points. Barack Obama and George W. Bush had approval ratings of 61 and 55 percent, respectively, over roughly the same number of days. At the time of their first midterms, they were at 45 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
Bush’s 63 percent approval rating is the reason why he’s one of the exceptions to the rule that the party residing in the White House loses Congressional seats in the midterms. It’s the highest approval rating ever during a midterm election. An unpopular war brought Bush and Republican Congressional candidates back down to Earth the second time around.
The only President who’s experienced a similar decline to Trump over a similar period is Gerald Ford. Over 157 days in office, Ford saw his approval rating fall from a very respectable 71 percent to 37 percent, He pardoned Nixon and still only had nearly the same approval rating as Trump does now! So what I’m saying is there’s plenty of time for Trump to hit rock bottom.
Going back to that FiveThirtyEight analysis, if Trump’s approval rating were to fall to say 31 percent, “Democrats would be projected to gain 53 seats” (again, +/- 33 margin of error). I’m not betting on Trump’s approval rating to be that high. He’s already got the record for the lowest approval rating to start a Presidency by six points. I’m betting he has the lowest approval rating of a first-term President going into a midterm election by the same margin.
That record also belongs to George W. Bush. He entered the 2008 midterms with an approval rating of 31 percent. The Republicans lost 36 Congressional seats in that election. Now consider if Trump were six points worse than that. He’d be hovering around 25 percent, and House Democrats would stand to gain considerably.
The job Trump is doing (or not doing considering all the rounds of golf he’s getting in) is already rubbing off on incumbent Congressional candidates, and the stink is legendary. Georgia’s 6th Congressional district has been a Republican stalwart since 1979. The fact that race was even close shouldn’t be taken lightly. We’ve never had a President this disapproved of at the start of a Presidency, and we’ve never seen a White House like this, so I expect the worst.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights
It’s no secret that Americans pay more for healthcare than anyone in the world, and it’s increasingly less of a secret that a better system would result in fewer infant deaths, fewer preventable deaths, fewer uninsured people, and less expense for Americans. What does that system look like, though? Well, it’s not privatized health insurance.
The problem with privatized health insurance is that it allows or forces people to go uninsured due to cost, which is why President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is so important. It lowered the number of uninsured to an all-time low of 8.6 percent by forcing affordable coverage options upon them (if you live in a state that expanded Medicaid) or forcing them to pay a fine so the insured wouldn’t have to flip so much of the uninsured’s bill. And while healthcare costs are still increasing (they always will), they are increasing at a slower rate than they were prior to the ACA.
The biggest reason socialized healthcare is difficult for Republicans to stomach is because they don’t trust the federal government to handle healthcare. You hear them say that over and over, and that the states can do it better. I don’t disagree, but if India can provide free healthcare to roughly 276 million Indians living under the poverty line, the American government can certainly do it for 43.1 million impoverished Americans. States should not be allowed to opt out of this coverage. It should be mandatory because those with private insurance would be paying for fewer uninsured visits to the hospital, meaning hospitals wouldn’t have to increase costs for everyone because of the $900 each uninsured visitor costs them annually.
But socialized healthcare is not going to be passed by this Congress or any other unless the Democrats manage a supermajority at some point, and even then it’s no certainty given the bad, yet unwarranted, reputation the word “socialism” has in this country. (Hint: it’s not fascism.)
The House Republicans’ American Health Care Act won’t be passed by this Congress, either. At least not how it currently stands. But minimum wage legislation should appeal to constituents and politicians of both parties.
The biggest problem for Americans isn’t increasing health insurance premiums. The biggest problem is stagnant wages, which is why passing minimum wage legislation is so important. Back in February, the U.S. inflation rate was at its highest since 2012. An item that cost $20 back in 1997 would cost $30.38 today. That’s a cumulative rate of inflation of almost 52 percent in 20 years. Middle- and low-wage workers’ incomes grew just over five percent during the same period. When the value of the U.S. dollar decreases 10 times faster than incomes increase, people struggle to pay for everything. My father and an entire district of a machinists’ union didn’t get a raise for the eight years Ronald Reagan was President. Imagine working for the same wage for nearly a decade while the cumulative rate of inflation increased 36.4 percent over that time. By the end of the eight years your 1981 U.S. dollar was worth just 63.6 cents in 1989. The lack of union membership in America has a lot to do with the increased income for the top 10 percent of earners, too.
While the globalization of the economy makes executives more valuable, a lack of union membership and lack of collective bargaining allows executive salaries to inflate. And while the affordability of commonly used items like refrigerators, ovens, etc. has increased according to the CATO Institute, that doesn’t necessarily offset the ever-increasing cost of energy. Between 2005 and 2015, residential energy costs increased 34 percent despite prices of natural gas delivered to electric utilities declining nearly 60 percent and coal prices remaining essentially flat, according to the Institute for Energy Research. And we all know that gasoline is more expensive. Today’s average price for gasoline is 54 percent more than the inflation-adjusted price of 1998, when oil prices reached an all-time low of $18.13 per barrel.
Secondary education continues to be an increasing expense, which increased on average at a rate of nine percent at four-year colleges, 11 percent at two-year colleges and 13 percent at private colleges since 2011-12, according to CollegeBoard. “But you don’t need a college education,” you might say. Sure, you might not need it, but the value of of a secondary education was double that of an equal investment in the stock market back in 2011, according to the Brookings Institute, and USA Today reported that a New York Fed study determined the net present value of a college degree to be at an all-time high of $300,000 back in 2014.
Education isn’t the only thing that’s steadily increased in cost, either. The median cost of rent has increased 64 percent since 1960 and 12 percent from 2000 to 2010 despite median wages falling seven percent during that time, according to ApartmentList. The Consumer Price Index for food is also 2.4 percent higher than it was just a year ago, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
While Republican politicians have no interest in socialized healthcare legislation or minimum wage legislation, they should if their goals entail more American jobs and a flourishing American economy. Socialized healthcare legislation, like Rep. John Conyer’s Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, and minimum wage legislation, like Rep. Al Green’s Original Living Wage Act, would allow Republicans to create more jobs and allow Americans to further stimulate the economy with expendable income.
No Conservative who is struggling to pay for necessities can successfully argue that they don’t deserve a raise, and no Republican politician can successfully argue that his or her struggling constituents don’t deserve a raise and keep his or her job. This is something Congress can pass and something Donald Trump should be proud to sign. It would be quite the blow to his predecessor if Trump managed to increase wages for all American workers making minimum wage. It would certainly make the numbers look better if Trump and the Republicans are successful in passing their healthcare bill, as more Americans would be able to afford health insurance.
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Republicans are again trying to repeal and replace Obamacare, but what they’re really doing is attempting to alter the Affordable Care Act just enough so they hold onto their jobs and fulfill a promise made by Donald Trump to repeal and replace Obamacare “one Day 1.” We are nearing Day 100, and the House Republicans can’t even agree amongst themselves let alone get enough votes in the Senate to pass their American Health Care Act.
The best thing that could have happened for Republicans with regard to the Affordable Care Act would have been to accomplish the goal announced by House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just after Barack Obama was elected president. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” he said. They failed, and so will their attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The problem for Republicans, and specifically Southern Republicans, is that Obamacare is working for some and would work for most of their constituents. In fact, the South had the highest rate of uninsured people in 2012 at 18.6 percent. And it’s not all Hispanics. Over 68 million of them are white.
Southerners are also the least healthy of all Americans, with 20 percent reporting fair or poor health in 2014. Southerners are also the most impoverished Americans, with 17 percent of Southerners living below the poverty level in 2014. The South also has the highest rates for diabetes, obesity and infant mortality in the nation. The South accounts for nearly as many uninsured people as the rest of America combined, and 17 percent of the uninsured fall into the coverage gap for Medicaid expansion.
Yet Southerners have taken advantage of, or actually, been disadvantaged by the Supreme Court decision to not force Medicaid expansion upon all states. Had all states been required to expand Medicaid, 7 million people would gain coverage, 4.3 million fewer people would be uninsured and states would see between $5 and $10 billion in uncompensated care savings over the next 10 years, which would offset increased state spending by between 13 and 25 percent.
Of the 19 states resisting Medicaid expansion, 14 are in the South. The states with the most people who stand to gain insurance through expansion are Florida (1.253 million), Texas (1.186 million) and Georgia (.682 million). Georgia nearly elected a Democrat to the house just a few days ago, Texas is turning blue, and two Republican incumbents lost House seats to Democrats in Florida last November, while Democratic incumbents retained all six of their seats.
In short, Southerners need Obamacare and the subsidies that come along with it. They’re just starting to realize it. Now, if America adopted a Medicare-for-all system that Bernie Sanders has proposed, maybe we could stop spending nearly $3 quadrillion on health care as a nation.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, The Easy Organic Gardener, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Good Day Health, MindSet: Mental Health News and Information, Health Hunters, America’s Health Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, The Dr. Bob Martin Show, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Drew Pearson Live