Tag: trump

What does the new Republican Healthcare Plan do Compared with the Affordable Care Act?

Rohin G.

March 14th, 2017

Paul_Ryan_official_Speaker_portrait      Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan is widely credited with writing the American Health Care Act, the Republican Party’s replacement for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This week, house Republicans rolled out their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.  The ACA, also known as Obamacare, has been considered a major piece of President Obama’s legacy.  Obamacare has also been one of the largest targets for Republicans who have been seeking the law’s repeal since it was passed.

So, what does the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) do?

  • Expands Medicaid (government sponsored healthcare for low-income people) to cover those with an income below 133% of the federal poverty line.  Under the ACA, the federal government paid a percentage of each state’s  Medicaid expenses.
  • Provides tax credits based on income for middle-income Americans in order to help them pay for insurance.
  • Requires that large companies provide their employees with health insurance.
  • The individual mandate, Requires individuals to purchase insurance if they can afford it or pay a fine.  This was put in place to drive down healthcare costs for older and sick people.
  • Prohibits insurance companies from charging older patients more than three times more than younger patients for health insurance.
  • Prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Allows young patients to stay on their parents’ healthcare plan until age 26.
  • Requires insurance providers to cover basic preventative care.  This reduces long-term costs of treating emergency medical problems.
  • Prohibits lifetime limits on health insurance coverage.
  • Sets up the Prevention and Public Health Fund to increase preventative healthcare measures. This reduces the number of medical emergencies or serious illnesses which are expensive to treat.

So, what does the new Republican plan, the American Healthcare Act keep from Obamacare?

  • The protections for people with pre-existing conditions would remain in place if the bill passes.
  • Lifetime limits on health insurance coverage would still be illegal under the new bill.
  • Young people will still be able to on their parents’ healthcare plan until age 26.
  • Insurance will still have to cover preventative care.

What does the GOP plan get rid of or change from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?

  • Medicaid expansion:  The Republican plan will keep the Medicaid expansion to cover low and lower-middle income Americans until 2020.  After that, federal Medicaid will only apply to people below the poverty line and federal funding will be given to states through a block grant.  This means that each state will get the same amount in federal funding.   The GOP plan also includes a provision that would place a limit on the amount of money that the federal government can pay per-person through Medicaid.
  • Tax credits:  The ACHA, the Republican health care plan, changes the tax credits in Obamacare so that the credits are based on age, not income.  The tax credits would still apply to people who earn under $75,000.
  • Mandates:  Employers would no longer be required to provide health insurance to employees under the new GOP plan.  Individuals are also not required to buy health insurance under the Republican plan.
  • Age discrimination ban:  Under the Republican plan, providers will be able to charge 5 times as much for elderly patients as younger patients.
  • Preventative Care:  The Preventative Care and Public Health Fund would be eliminated in 2019 under the Republican plan.

In addition to what is listed above, the Republican health care plan removes all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortion services in addition to other women’s health services including breast cancer and STI screenings.

The New American Stance on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Rohin G.                   February 16, 2017

US-ISRAEL-NETANYAHU-TRUMP-DIPLOMACY

US President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during a joint press conference.  

Photo Credit: Time

On February 15, President Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Many have seen an obvious shift in the rhetoric by the Trump administration, moving away from the Obama administration’s criticism of Israel and towards a more unconditional support of Israel regardless of Israeli actions.  Many advocates for a two-state solution and greater rights for Palestinians were and still are nervous about the new administration’s stances on Israeli-Palestinian issues.  One proposition from the administration was to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a city hotly contested by Israelis and Palestinians.

Another controversial topic is that of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank.  For decades, the United States has attempted to pressure Israel to cease appropriation of Palestinian lands for the construction of Jewish communities.    Although the US has been against settlement activity, it has never supported measures against any Israeli action in the United Nations until the very end of the Obama administration.  Many Israeli actions have drawn harsher reactions from the international community.  Early this year, the United Nations passed a resolution banning all settlement activity by Israel in the West Bank with all members of the UN Security Council except the US voting yes. (see my previous article for more information: https://youthnewsjournal.com/2016/12/28/the-controversy-over-the-israeli-settlements-resolution-in-the-united-nations/  ).  The Obama administration chose not to veto the resolution, instead abstaining and allowing it to pass.  President Trump, as well as many American politicians from both parties, condemned the resolution stating that it was “anti-Israel” and adding that the only solutions to issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are those reached through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Recent statements by the Trump administration present mixed signals about the new US stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Although President Trump has pledged to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Trump has not shown any signs of following through with that action thus far.  On the issue of settlements in the West Bank, President Trump has stuck to the US policy against Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank stating that settlements are “counterproductive for peace”.  President Trump, however, did break from longstanding US policy quite drastically when in a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, he stated that he was fine with either a one-state or a two-state solution.  President Trump said that he still believed that the two-state option was easier to achieve but that he would support any solution which was agreed upon by both Israel and the Palestinians.  This radical shift in American policy away from mandating a two-state solution begs the question; what will the American role in Middle East peace be under the Trump administration?

What Trump Administration Officials have said About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

We can get a rough idea of the new administration’s stance based on what officials on the Trump team have said.

Most foreign policy conducted by the Trump administration as in any administration will likely be done by the secretary of state, who currently is Rex Tillerson.  Tillerson had not made many comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before being nominated for secretary of state.  During his confirmation hearing, he stated that the US should give more support to Israel and condemned the recent UN resolution on settlements.  Tillerson did say that he supports restarting peace talks and also supports a two-state solution.

Any work in the United Nations will be done by UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley.  Haley has promised greater support for Israeli actions and to veto actions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the UN stating that direct negotiations are the only way to reach a lasting solution.  She has spoken against Israeli settlement activity during her confirmation hearing.

The closest person to many issues in the region will be US ambassador to Israel, David Freidman if he is confirmed by the senate.  In the past, Freidman has made controversial comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict including his statement that a progressive Jewish organization called J Street was similar to Jews who collaborated with Nazis, and another statement where he openly endorsed Israeli settlements.  In his confirmation hearing, Freidman committed to facilitating direct negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Although it is impossible to know what will happen with the ever-changing situation in the Middle East, the administration’s statements provide some basis for understanding.

If the Trump administration looks to people with more extreme viewpoints such as the nominee for ambassador to Israel, David Freidman, The US would likely take a stance of staunch support for Israeli actions regardless of what the actions are or the international opinion on them.  This could manifest itself as, for example, if Israel decides to engage in a massive expansion of settlements or a formal annexation of Palestinian lands, the US defends these actions and increases support for the Israeli state even though the Israeli actions would draw strong condemnation from the vast majority of the international community.  A less extreme example of this approach of staunch support for controversial Israeli policies is that of moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  A key American ally in the region, Jordan, where many US forces are based, has called a possible move of the embassy to Jerusalem a “red line”.  Regardless of this statement, President Trump still says that he is considering moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

A more likely approach by the new administration towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that of more support for Israeli actions but a continued support for the peace process.  This is the approach which most of the President’s closest officials including secretary Tillerson and UN ambassador pick Nikki Haley have advocated for.  This policy would likely mean more military aid to Israel, less condemnation of Israeli actions, and a resistance to efforts in international organizations such as the United Nations to pass resolutions regarding Middle East peace.  However, this moderate approach would include constant encouragement to both Israelis and Palestinians to continue peace talks and would also include soft statements against Israel settlement activity.  This approach is already being taken by the administration in statements by President Trump endorsing continued negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and requesting Israel cease construction of settlements in the West Bank.  This approach is almost exactly the same as the Bush administration’s policy towards Israeli-Palestinian issues.

Both approaches that could be taken by the Trump administration are far more unconditional in their support for Israel regardless of provocative actions than the approach taken by the Obama or Clinton administrations.  Both Presidents Obama and Clinton were staunch supporters of Israel but also often condemned Israeli actions including settlement expansions and restrictions on Palestinian people’s personal freedoms.

 

 

President Trump’s Wall Executive is Opposed by Mexico and Many Who Work in Protecting the Border and May Cause a Trade War

58887bb6c361888b558b45cd

Photo Credit: RT

After President Donald Trump signed an executive order to begin construction on a wall along the US-Mexico border, former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox was adamant that Mexico would not compensate the US for this wall.  During an interview on CNN, Fox repeated his previous comments to CNN’s reporter, Anderson Cooper that “Mexico will not pay for that f**king wall, Americans should pay for it.”  Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary stated that the Trump team will make Mexico will pay for the wall through massive tariffs on Mexican goods being exported to the US.  Former-President Fox fired back stating that If the US were to put tariffs on Mexican goods, Mexico would respond by putting higher tariffs on American exports to Mexico.  American exports to Mexico total more than 240 billion dollars.  A trade war with the US’ fourth largest trade partner would do immense damage to the economies of both countries.

Many people involved in border security have said that a wall will be a waste of resources and time.  Many agents with US Customs and Border Patrol have stated that a wall will not do much to stop illicit traffic in narcotics or people.  The majority of undocumented migrants enter legally but overstay visas.  Those who do sneak into the border normally work as seasonal laborers in agriculture during planting or harvesting times for crops and then return home to Mexico.  Other agents simply state that a wall would be easy to cross with ladders or tunnels.   A fence already exists for much of the border and has helped in many areas but failed to make any difference in others.  Building a wall along the border would also require the seizure of hundreds of private properties in South Texas due to most of the land being privately owned and used for agriculture.  Much of the mountainous terrain in West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona make building any sort of infrastructure impossible.  For President Trump to build his planned wall, all of these hurdles must be dealt with.

A Look Back at the Hearings for the Most Controversial Cabinet Appointments

Over the past two weeks,  almost all of the soon-to-be president Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions had confirmation hearings in senate committees.  Most, if not all of the nominees are expected to be confirmed to their positions however some have been very controversial.  Below is a list of the most controversial nominees and any information on their controversies and highlights from their hearings.

 

Attorney General: Jeff Sessions

jeff_sessions_official_portrait

Senator Sessions was accused of racism and was denied a federal judgeship in 1986.  In his hearing, he faced questions about his positions on voting rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, immigration and criminal justice.  Sessions touted his defense of civil rights laws and voting rights while district attorney for the state of Alabama and his senate vote to extend the voting rights act.  Sessions was adamant that he would enforce all laws equally including those that he did not agree with.  Senator Jeff Sessions is expected to be confirmed.

Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson

download-2

Tillerson is the former CEO of the oil company, Exxon Mobil.  He was accused of holding close ties with the Russian government and faced tough questioning from both Democrats and Republicans.  Tillerson said that standing up to Russian aggression was necessary but also argued that engagement with Russia was necessary.  Tillerson was also asked about human rights in several countries.  He stated that he did not have enough information to determine whether or not the Phillippine president Duterte’s war on drugs was a human rights violation but did state that if some of the allegations against Duterte are proven to be true, Tillerson would consider them a violation of human rights.  Tillerson also stated that he would continue to encourage Saudi Arabia to move towards improving human rights but refused to label the country as a blatant violator of human rights fearing that that would garner unintended repercussions.  Tillerson will likely be confirmed, however, his chances are lower than other nominees because he is opposed by some republican senators, namely Marco Rubio.

Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt

download-3

When Scott Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma was appointed to lead the EPA, many progressives were concerned about his ties to the fossil fuel industry, his denial of climate change, and his lawsuits against the EPA over regulations concerning air and water pollution.  During his hearing, Pruitt faced tough questioning on all of these issues and pledged to follow recommendations from scientists and protect air and water quality.  He will likely be confirmed.

Education Secretary: Betsy DeVos

betsy_devos_2005_crop

A prominent Michigan republican, DeVos is an ardent supporter of school vouchers which siphon government funding away from public schools and into charter schools and private schools.  She also supports teaching Christian religious beliefs in schools.  DeVos faced questions on all of these issues but was unable to give definite answers.  She also refused to condemn guns in all schools stating that rural schools have different needs than urban ones, citing a school in Wyoming which has a fence to protect it from bears.  Although Betsy DeVos is extremely controversial, Democrats will have to fight very hard to block her confirmation.

CIA Director: Mike Pompeo

mike_pompeo_official_portrait_112th_congress

Kansas congressman, Mike Pompeo was questioned about his hardline positions on interrogation techniques and surveillance.  Although Pompeo previously has supported torture techniques being used to interrogate detainees, he stated that he will not support them as CIA director due to laws passed prohibiting torture of people in US custody.  On surveillance, Pompeo stated that he would follow the USA Freedom Act which prohibits some bulk collection of phone and internet data.  Mike Pompeo is expected to be confirmed.

Treasury Secretary: Steven Mnuchin

steven_mnuchin

Mnuchin bought the bank, IndyMac during the 2008 financial crisis and renamed it One West Bank.  One West foreclosed on thousands of homeowners during the housing crisis.  Mnuchin was also accused of investing his money overseas to avoid taxes.  At his hearing, Mnuchin stated that OneWest’s foreclosing on so many homes was a mistake but denied the allegations that he avoided taxes.  Mnuchin will face harsh opposition from Democrats but will likely be confirmed.

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Price

download-4

Congressman Price’s main agenda for the past 6 years has been to try to repeal the affordable care act.  Price also supports cutting Medicare and Medicaid.  Price is also accused of failing to pay taxes several times.  Democrats questioned him harshly on these issues.  Price denied the allegations of tax avoidance and dodged questions about his positions on Medicaid and Medicare instead, stating that soon to be president, Trump will not go back on his previous commitments to preserve these programs.  Price will face intense opposition from democrats but likely will get confirmed.

These are the most controversial of Trump’s appointments to have gone through hearings.  Other nominees will almost certainly be confirmed by the senate and are perceived to be quite moderate.

 

Photos from wikimedia commons.

 

 

 

 

 

President-Elect Trump Finally Acknowledges that Russia Hacked the US Election

President-Elect Trump released a statement stating that he did, in fact, believe that Russia meddled in the American election process.  Reince Priebus, one of Trump’s closest aides and nominee for White House Chief of Staff, told Fox News that ” [Trump] accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia, so that’s not the issue.”

In December of 2016, the CIA released a report confirming suspicions that Russia was actively trying to support Trump in the election by hacking organizations connected to the Clinton campaign.  In response, some electors called for a briefing on Russian interference in the election before the electoral college voted.

The alleged involvement of Russia in the US election involves hacking Democratic party data and releasing degrading information about Hillary Clinton through wiki-leaks.  Russia also allegedly planted fake news which hurt Clinton’s public image.  There are also reports of Russia planting trolls on the internet to attempt to influence people to vote for Trump.

Until recently, President-elect Trump denied any involvement from Russia in the election.  He dismissed these charges as an attempt to de-legitimize his election victory.  Trump has been criticized for his praising of Russia and Russian president, Vladimir Putin.  Meanwhile, intelligence officials repeatedly stated that the allegations of Russian involvement were backed by sufficient evidence.  President Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia and stated that counter cyber attacks were possible.  Several senators from both parties have come out in support of tougher action against Russian cyber-attacks.

During the confirmation hearings of Gen. John Kelly for Homeland Security, Mike Pompeo for CIA director, Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State and James Mattis for Defense secretary, the issue of cyber security and Russian cyber attacks were discussed in great detail.  All the cabinet appointees have pledged to step up efforts to defend the US against future cyber warfare.

 

The Flaws of “America First”

By Hari S. (guest contributor)

When a president is elected and our nation’s greatest adversaries celebrate, you know there is a problem. When a president is elected and Americans are grieving, you know there is a problem. When a president is elected and women feel demeaned and not empowered, you know there is a problem. When that president is Donald Trump, the problem becomes even clearer.

Trump, however, has done a masterful job of covering up his many flaws, compensating for his dubious tax methods by appealing to the wealthy and promising them lower taxes, but also brought into play the white, working-class, Rust-Belt element of America by promising to bring back their jobs and scrap globalization for an “America First” strategy.

“America First” may sound appealing, but it has some key flaws- take the Iran nuclear negotiation, for instance. With a country as hostile as Iran, can we afford to put America first and make relations frostier than they already are? If we choose to do this, our deepest priorities- preventing nuclear proliferation, advancing human rights, and creating unity in the region, will pay the price.

His appeals to various classes are equally problematic- by lowering taxes “big-league” (35%), how can a potential Trump administration take care of all the services and improvements they have promised to the urban poor, who are, in his words, “living in hell”?  By bringing jobs back to America, labor costs will increase, forcing companies to cut workers and leading to the same undesirable employment situation from where we started.

Moreover, the implications of Trump’s presidency on our reputation across the world are the most detrimental. America was founded on the premise that “all men are created equal” and that anyone has a chance to succeed. Why, then, do we not apply that to the rest of the world by welcoming Muslim and Latino immigrants? Why wouldn’t we give developing economies a chance to grow instead to support the greater good instead of America first, because we only truly succeed when the world does.

Knowing all that we do about what America stands for and how much was at stake on November 8th, it should be truly disappointing to all Americans, regardless of race, economic status, or religion that the people of this country were disillusioned into electing a man who promises much, but has proved himself to achieve little.

Drama in the Trump Transition Team

As President-Elect Trump begins organizing his administration, an epic drama is unfolding on top of the Trump Tower.  A leader of Trump’s transition is Jared Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter.  President-Elect Trump’s son-in-law has had a very important role behind the scenes in the campaign and was the de-facto chair for some time.

Another prominent figure in the transition team is the former governor of New Jersey and former Republican candidate, Chris Christie.  Christie was one of the first people to endorse Trump for president and has had a prominent role as a campaign surrogate since.

Christie was the chair of the Trump transition team immediately after the election but was fired on November 10 and replaced by Vice-President Elect, Mike Pence.  Christie still has a minor post on the team.  Soon afterward, Jared Kushner began to fire members of the transition team who were close to Chris Christie. These included former Michigan Congressman, Mike Rogers.

So where did Jared Kushner’s feud with Governor Christie come from?

In 2004, Governor Christie who was then a US attorney for New Jersey brought charges against Charles Kushner, Jared’s father.  Charles Kushner pled guilty to tax evasions and was sentenced to two years in prison.  The entire Kushner family including Jared Kushner has been opposed to Governor Christie.  Some sources say that Jared Kushner sees the transition as a way to get revenge on Governor Christie.