AFAM News bits – August 2017

“I would rather tame the lion rather than replace him with the jackal.” (Regarding the foolishness of replacing Trump with Pence)

“Blatherer” defined: “In Ireland it describes someone who talks nonstop nonsense.” (Speaking of Trump)

“It is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” (Regarding the upcoming local elections in Springfield)

“While our system can’t function without leaders with formal authority, what makes it really work…is when leaders occupying those formal positions – from business to politics to schools to sports – have moral authority. Leaders with moral authority understand what they can demand of others and what they must inspire in them. They also understand that formal authority can be won or seized but moral authority has to be earned every day by how they lead. And we don’t have enough of these leaders.” (New York Times Thomas Friedman quoting Dov Seidman as reprinted in The Republican, June 23 2017.)

“On the evidence of a lifetime, America’s vice president is not a complex man. Instead he is three extremely simple ones: an incompetent ideologue, an obsequious toady, and a self-serving schemer….When Donald Trump selected him, local observers were dumbfounded. They knew Pence as a comically ambitious, rigid and inept rightwing evangelical – a climate-change denying, Darwin-doubting zealot who, before leaving Congress, had left no mark beyond his sulfurous opposition to reproductive and gay rights. And his accession to the governorship, meant to position him as presidential timber, had foundered on the fundamentalist verities that define his mental cul-de-sac.” (Richard North Patterson, The Boston Globe, July 4, 2017.)

Whether or not you are among those who want to repeal and replace the Obama “Affordable Care Act (ACA),” there is one paramount and jarring political reality that will bar its replacement by House and Senate Republican proponents with the “Better Care and Reconciliation Act (BCRA). That “jarring political reality” is as follows: “Twenty-one Republican senators represent 14 states that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA.” Of the twenty-one, “Alaska’s Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski: 18,000 of your state’s residents would lose health coverage. Arizona’s Jeff Flake and John McCain: 456,000. Arkansas’ Tom Cotton and John Boozman: 313,000. Colorado’s Cory Gardner: 444,000. Indiana’s Todd Young: 443,000. Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley: 191,000. Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell: 535,000. Louisiana’s John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy: 387,000. Montana’s Steve Daines: 87,000. Nevada’s Dean Heller: 257,000. North Dakota’s John Hoeven: 32,000. Ohio’s Rob Portman: 815,000. Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey: 613,000. West Virginia’s Shelley Moore: 195,000.” (William A. Galston, The Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2017, quoting statistics compiled by the Urban Institute.) The political peril that the Republican replacement for Obamacare (ACA) poses for these Republicans will be what dooms the BCRA.

“If the BCRA becomes law, 22 million fewer people will be insured by 2026 relative to current law…increasing the uninsured total by about 75%. The BCRA does more than repeal the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, it changes the structure and funding for the entire program. Spending on Medicaid would be reduced by $772 billion – 26% – below the current baseline over the next decade. As a result, 15 million would lose their coverage under Medicaid, which is the main safety net for poor and near-poor Americans as well as for the elderly in nursing homes…The benchmark insurance plan under the BCRA would cover, on average [only] 58% of health-care costs, down from 70%. This means much higher deductibles. Because the BCRA allows insurance companies to charge older Americans five times as much as young adults, up from only three times as much under current law, people 50 to 64 would be hit especially hard. For those in this age bracket making $30,000 a year or less, the share without insurance coverage would more than double from about 12% to 26%.” (By William A. Galston, The Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2017.) No wonder the title of Galston’s article is “Tear Up the GOP Health Bill and Start Over.” Republicans would do well to take heed. And who would most benefit from the money saved by cutting health insurance to the poor and elderly while making it more costly even to the middle class? The rich, of course, especially those making over $1 million.

Woe be it for Setti Warren and the other no-names challenging Governor Charlie Baker for the 2018 race for governor of Massachusetts. In the recent poll, Governor Baker polled favorably among 67% of all voters and 57% among Democrats. The only Democrat who pulled Baker below the 50% level in the upcoming race for governor was Attorney General Maura Healey who isn’t even in the race and who insists she will not run. Newton Mayor Setti Warren is closest among declared Democrats for governor at 26% to Baker’s 53%. Robert K. Massie is 25% to the governor’s 55%. Jay Gonzalez drags up the rear with 22% to Baker’s 55%. By his own reckoning, Baker must draw one third of Democrats’ votes to win. In the recent poll, he drew only 28% against non-candidate Maura Healey and above the necessary 33% for the remaining three.

A Black (Somalian and Muslim) cop shot an unarmed and unthreatening White woman who had called for a disturbance in the alleyway behind her apartment. A White police officer in Texas who shot a 15-year-old Black teenage passenger with a rifle through the window of a car that was driving away from a party was recently indicted for murder and will soon go on trial. As I see it, the significance of the two events is that they provide an opportunity for a test of the outer limits of police judicial immunity for unjustified killings of black people. A Black cop in Milwaukee was recently found not guilty in the “unjustified” killing of a Black man so we now have evidence the standard for a Black cop and White cop who unjustifiably kill a Black man is similarly loose. Our expectation is that the White Texas cop will be exonerated. But all bets are off regarding the Black cop who shot an unthreatening, unarmed White woman. But, in all probability, the Black cop is in for a long time in prison.

Russell Holmes is a Black Democratic State Representative out of Mattapan in Boston and a past chairman of the Black/Latino caucus in the statehouse. As chairman of the Joint Committee on Housing, he was also one of the three most powerful Black legislators serving under Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo who recently removed Holmes from his chairmanship for having the audacity to speak his mind on the issue of the next selection for Speaker of the House. Holmes’ words were simply stated: “I believe now is the time for the Massachusetts Black/Latino Legislative Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, the Women’s Caucus to be strong and united in our selection of the next speaker of the House. We should not do this individually; we should do this together so our voices are heard.” The occasion was the resignation of DeLeo’s apparent successor, Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, who abruptly resigned his chairmanship amidst plans to resign from the House and join a lobbying firm. Apparently, Speaker DeLeo took offense at Holmes’ suggestion or at least was threatened by it and reduced his status to a rank and file representative with no portfolio which, in effect, branded him an outsider, a political purgatory designed to render him powerless in a body where absolute loyalty bordering on the obsequious is demanded. Two things followed. DeLeo’s boot of Holmes along with other changes was rubber stamped (ratified) by Democrats. If there was any opposition from his fellow Black and Hispanic colleagues, it was not publicly vocalized partly – though not insignificantly – because DeLeo, in his infinite wisdom of politics, appointed Latino Representative Jeffrey Sanchez to replace Dempsey as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, placing him in line to become the next Speaker when and if DeLeo ever steps down, which is unlikely to be soon. DeLeo deserves credit for political deftness. He not only split the Black/Latino caucus but he also put the fear of God in the minds of all others who dare not toe the party line. Russell Holmes had the courage to speak up and he paid the price before most folks in Western Massachusetts ever got to know him. ■

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