Essay, Opinion, Politics

KATHY GRIFFIN’S NOT APOLOGIZING ANYMORE, PRESIDENTIALITY AND HIGHER STANDARDS

Header source: Wikimedia Commons

When Trump’s actions are getting increasingly damaging to vulnerable minorities, it’s getting harder and harder to imagine why we should expect people like Kathy Griffin to keep apologizing.


Kathy Griffin, the comedian who faced massive backlash from a May 30th photo she posted of her holding up a mask of President Donald Trump covered in fake blood, styled to look like his decapitated head, is refusing to apologize anymore.

She was the subject of a recent article from The Cut, months after the fallout that cost her 15 live performances, her gig hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve broadcast and an endorsement deal – not to mention the thousands of death threats.

The story, which takes place in late June, opens with a description of Trump’s Twitter rant that day: denouncing Robert Mueller’s investigation, mocking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and calling Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “Cryin’ Chuck.” The nickname came from Schumer getting emotional when discussing the Trump immigration ban.

“Why are people still expecting me to apologize and grovel to a man that tweets like this?” Griffin “vented” to the piece’s author Bashar Ali. “I’m a comedian; he’s our fucking president.”

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Opinion, Politics

THE PRICE OF POPULARITY IN POLITICS

The members of Congress who have not disavowed Trump are actively cosigning on everything he does.


On Friday, the New York Times news podcast The Daily – posted an episode that centered on Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and his criticism of President Donald Trump, as well as Trump’s open rooting for Flake’s defeat from public office in a 2018 race.

In Trump’s Phoenix rally, he ranted against the state’s two Republican senators – John McCain and Jeff Flake – of course, refusing to mention them by name as an attempt at…coyness? Trump’s anger towards Flake stems from the Arizona senator’s new book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle. The book takes aim at the Republican Party with a plea to return to its bedrock politics, which are directly at odds with a Trump presidency.

Because of this, Trump has attacked Flake both in speeches and on Twitter, for being “weak” on immigration and crime, and openly encouraging his defeat at the hands of opponent, Dr. Kelli Ward. Ward is self-identified as standing with Trump and seeking to “make Arizona great again.” Trump also railed against the “one vote” that stopped the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a thinly-veiled attack at John McCain whose vote, alongside Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), prevented the Senate Republicans from passing the repeal.

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Opinion, Politics

OPINION: WE CAN’T KEEP EXPECTING HILLARY CLINTON TO SAVE US

Header source: Wikimedia Commons 

She was ready to be our champion, so don’t criticize her because America picked someone else


In a recent interview with Fox & Friends, Kellyanne Conway, advisor to President Trump, had this to say (unpromoted) about Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democrat nominee for President and former New York Senator, after being asked to address those who call Trump mentally unfit:

“Look at the crack-up of the major left. You’ve got Hillary Clinton, who, Democrats are whispering all over this town wish this book [Clinton’s upcoming book What Happened] didn’t happen, that she would just either make herself useful or fade out of the limelight…Where is her bipartisan effort to try to help with infrastructure and meaningful tax reform, or the opioid crisis that I work on in the building behind you every single day? We haven’t heard from her. She failed to make history and she succeeds at making excuses, and that is emblematic of the Democratic Party now that is so bereft of ideas and issues that they have to then play armchair psychiatrists. We’re not going to let it happen; it’s outrageous.”  

There are few people that make me as angry as Kellyanne Conway, the type of person, much like Mike Pence, who would submit people to undeniable tortures and struggles and claim that it was for their own good. I have no doubt that Kellyanne Conway knows how unhinged her president is; I have no doubt that Pence knows his own bigotry towards LGBTQ people and uses religion as a blanket shield. And I have no doubt that they ignore these truths and barrel on in the face of their own interests. Money, power, control.

“Where is Hillary?” Kellyanne wonders, on the opioid crisis, women and children, bipartisan efforts. Well, Kellyanne, she is not president. She does not have to do anything. That Kellyanne would even bring up Hillary’s name, blame her for any inaction or expect her to be spearheading anything is beyond ludicrous, it’s insulting.

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Body Health, Mental Health, Politics

THE SENATE RELEASES THEIR HEALTHCARE BILL

Read my articles about the CBO analysis for the House bill here and the March AHCA bill here

In other news, before we get started—President Trump took to Twitter today to confirm that there were no tape-recordings of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey; tapes he insinuated weeks ago he had.


Written when I was going to write about using self-tanner in preparation for New York Pride, and the realization that the healthy, sun-kissed glow I actually needed was for my soul—but more pressing matters have arisen.

This morning—Thursday June 22, 2017—the new healthcare plan was released after a cloud of mystery while it was being written in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a small group of colleagues. The bill’s mystery was protested by Democrats and Republicans alike, who feared that this bill would be introduced and forced into a hasty vote before anyone had a chance to read it. according to CNN, the bill will have a one-week-turnaround, meaning that McConnell hopes to get it voted on within a week.

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Politics

THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT GOES TO VOTE TODAY, FRIDAY MARCH 24

Update 3/25: the American Health Care Act was pulled from the floor and did not go through the voting process. Speaker Ryan has stated that the Affordable Care Act will be the law for the “foreseeable future.” President Trump has since stated that he will wait for the ACA to “explode” and then create a “greater healthcare plan.”

Today, Friday, March 24, 2017, the House of Representatives will vote on the Affordable Care Act replacement bill—the American Health Care Act—with significant changes having been made last night and without the Congressional Budget Office analyzing those changes. Previously the CBO offered projections of, despite a decrease of ~$337 billion in the deficit, roughly 24 million people without coverage by 2026. Even by just repealing the ACA leaves 18 million people uninsured.

The bill underwent multiple changes after receiving severe blowback from all Democrats and several factions of Republicans. GOP moderates felt that the plan was too ill-thought and would leave too many people uninsured. GOP conservatives felt the bill did not go far enough, and dubbed it “Obamacare-Lite.” Those divides postponed the vote, which was supposed to take place yesterday. Ryan and other proponents of the bill did not want to go forward without the votes.

 

The new bill would defund Planned Parenthood. The rationale for this is restriction of abortions. However, Planned Parenthood puts no federal funding towards abortions. They do put federal funding towards reimbursement for services like birth control, contraception, and cancer screenings. Patients use public health programs, like Medicaid and Title X, go to places like Planned Parenthood that take that coverage. They use the programs, Planned Parenthood sends the claim to Medicaid (for example), which reimburses them, and then Medicaid sends the bill to the federal government. Abortions, which account for roughly 3 percent of all PP services, do not get reimbursed.

So when the GOP says that they will defund Planned Parenthood, they are doing it out of spite, because what they’re actually doing is stopping people from being able to use Medicaid for non-abortion services.

Vice President Mike Pence, formerly the Governor of Indiana, recently posted a photo of himself and the President meeting with the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus is made up of the GOP conservatives who are dragging their feet about the bill.

To get them on the side of voting yes, those in charge of the bill—House Speaker Paul Ryan, VP Pence, and even Trump—have struck a deal with the Freedom Caucus. If the Caucus agrees to the bill, the Essential Health Benefits list will be removed from the bill.

What’s the Essential Health Benefits?

It’s a holdover from the Affordable Care Act. It requires insurances to cover—at the bare minimum—the following 10 items:

  • Emergency Services
  • Hospitalization
  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services
  • Pediatric services

There has been no analysis on the future consequences on striking off the Essential Health Benefits because the CBO has not been given enough time to conduct research.

Trump has put pressure on the GOP to push this bill through. It would solidify his stance as a deal-maker—something he ran on during the campaign—and would show his control over the rapidly dividing Republican party. He has also threatened that the Republicans will lose their majority if the bill does not pass. That pressure has forced massive overhauls to the bill. House Republicans and Democrats are set to vote on a bill that they haven’t read in full, or had sufficient or significant research on.

But perhaps the scariest part of this whole thing is that photo that VP Pence Tweeted out. Him and the President meeting with the Freedom Caucus. With the strength of the Freedom Caucus, the American Health Care Act is that much closer to being passed.

A circle of wealthy, privileged, heterosexual cisgender white men, deciding the fate of women, minorities, cancer patients, those with mental illness, and the vulnerable. We might not have seen the finished bill, but we have seen enough of the consequences. The AHCA would mostly affect the elderly and sick—premiums would rise due to declining assistance—while the young, healthy and wealthy would see tax benefits. In addition, according to Forbes, over the next decade, the plan outlines an $880 billion tax cut, with $274 billion going directly to the richest 2%.

If the AHCA, the new healthcare plan, only benefits the young, healthy and wealthy, while leaving premiums rising, care decreasing, targeting the elderly and the sick, and ~24 million uninsured—then it’s possible that this isn’t the best plan.

But this is the world we live in—the decision of this small cluster of white men, for whom this healthcare plan will only benefit, will impact the rest of us.

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Politics

TRUMP’S 2005 TAX FORMS ON THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW AND WHY THEY’RE IMPORTANT

 

I didn’t watch The Rachel Maddow Show live when it was revealing Trump’s 2005 tax returns—because I don’t have a TV and also I probably wouldn’t have anyway—but I was scrolling through Twitter in the hours before, during and after, and from what I gathered, it was a bit of a letdown. After months of intense wondering about what Trump’s tax returns would reveal, the paltry two-page report from 2005 did not live up to the hype.

Celebrities tweeted that the reveal was unimpressive, and journalist Joe Scarborough suggested that Trump himself could’ve leaked the returns to distract from his current agenda, as well as to silence those still asking for the full receipts. David Cay Johnston, the journalist who first received the 1040, offered up that same theory as one possibility as well.

But just because the 2005 Form 1040 didn’t have any explosive revelations doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly valuable in understanding Trump’s finances.

Because I care—about our country, and about you—I did some research so you don’t have to. I literally know nothing about tax returns, so I did some digging around to see what the hullabaloo is about.

The 1040 is the basic tax return system, documenting Trump’s annual income, his losses in income, and the amount of money he filed in taxes. Against an income of roughly $153 million, Trump reported $103 million in losses, which according to the Washington Post could include depreciation and sums carried over from previous years, and paid $38 million in taxes.

Here’s where things get interesting. Trump paid that $38 million in taxes because of something called the Alternative Minimum Tax, a parallel tax system that, according to the Wall Street Journal, is “designed to make sure that high-income individuals can’t use legal deductions and credits to avoid all income taxes.”

From what I’m able to understand, the AMT recognizes that, for most people, having roughly 67 percent of your income in loss (the $103 million loss against the $153 million income) would be detrimental. However, the AMT is designed for wealthy individuals, and forces them to pay taxes accordingly. Without the AMT, Trump would, due to his losses, paid a little over $5 million, according to David Cay Johnston—the investigative reporter who first had the tax returns dropped in his mailbox. $5 million is 3.5 percent of Trump’s income, which is less than half of what people who make $33,000 a year pay in taxes.

So the AMT prevented Trump from taking advantage of his losses and paying next-to-nothing (for him) in taxes. And the most interesting part is that Trump proposes to cut the AMT in his upcoming tax plan. Republicans in Congress, like Speaker Paul Ryan, want to get rid of the AMT in their next goal after healthcare. I don’t really understand why they would pursue tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, except that it would be a harkening back to Reaganomics.

In my VERY preliminary research—so if anyone has more information, please let me know—Reagan gave cuts on federal income tax and capital gains tax, along with a decrease in government regulation and government spending, with the idea that—with more capital—companies would invest more money into their spending, their workers and infrastructure. This is also called supply-side economics, which argued that economic growth comes from investing in capital. Reagan was dealing with stagflation, and from what I’m able to understand, his economics brought an end to that recession. And while Reagan saw a decrease in poverty, the level shot up after he left office to higher than before, and Reaganomics—while it did increase GDP—did not benefit the middle class in the way that it promised to. While still impressive, job creation under Reagan was lower than under Clinton and Carter.

But this isn’t an economics class, and even though when I wear a turtleneck and glasses I look like an economics professor who was Seventeen Again-ed, I’m not an economics professor.

 

So let’s focus on why Trump’s tax returns are important, even if they weren’t as flashy as one might’ve hoped. They’re important because they show us his motivation. Trump would’ve saved $33 million if the AMT were eliminated. That’s a pretty impressive amount. And while Trump has already claimed that utilizing tax loopholes makes him very smart, that’s still capital that is being lost in the economy. The GOP says that even with the elimination of the AMT, closing other tax loopholes will make up for that loss. But when we have a president who won’t release his full tax returns, how can we trust anything they say?

Releasing full tax returns would show exactly how much Trump has given to charity (he claims to be very charitable, and giving to charity is a tax write-off), from where he gets his income, and exactly what entities he might be beholden to. Since we don’t know any of this, we don’t know what policies Trump makes that would be beneficial to his benefactors or his businesses. We know nothing. Every presidential candidate since 1976, besides Gerald Ford who only released summary tax data, has released their tax returns. The Clintons have released tax information dating back to the 1970s. It alerts people to possible red flags and conflicts of interest. By withholding his own, Trump is hiding his own possible conflicts.

Johnston, towards the end of his interview with Maddow, said, “I’ve been at this for 50 years…Every time some high-level politician wants to hide something, it always turns out there’s a reason. They’ve got something to hide.”

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college, Essay, Politics

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: MY NIGHT WITH REPUBLICANS

Names have been changed, except the name of that nail polish. Originally submitted as a piece for my Columns & Editorials class.

Last night I went to my first College Republicans meeting. I’m working on a story about political engagement among college students post-election, and when researching political party groups on campus, I found out they were having a meeting that very night.

I don’t know what I thought I would be walking into, but it wasn’t what I assumed. Okay, I knew what I thought it would be—a Nazi circle-jerk, or an anti-Obama pile-on. I expected Make America Great Again hats and enough Vineyard Vines to clothe an entire village.

There was only one MAGA hat but, I assumed, they all had some in their closets. There were a lot more women than I expected, at least half but maybe more. Traitors to their gender, I thought. How can they side with someone who is so anti-women? And there were people of color. Stockholm Syndrome, I reasoned, or internalized xenophobia. The white, presumably straight, guy in a quarter-zip and Patriot’s baseball cap was soaked in so much privilege that anything he would say was bound to be offensive. But in what’s usually the case, per the principle of Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is usually the truest. They weren’t brainwashed or spies or masochists. They were just Republicans.

The meeting began with typical housekeeping. In light of the new presidency, they hoped to up their meetings from once every three weeks to something more frequent, and then they bandied around ideas for speakers they could get for their semesterly big function. Bill O’Reilly, I learned, is a BU alum, and one girl thought he was worth reaching out to.

After, the conversation turned to discussion. The latest news: The inauguration, and who among the group had attended. The nomination for Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch. They said it was a “Merrick Garland type of decision,” meaning a more centrist pick that both sides could agree on. The immigration ban, which a College Republicans executive board member, Rocky, said (a common response) was “executed very, very poorly.”

Marianne talked about the immigration ban, sharing that her boyfriend (a green card holder from a “non-white, non-Christian” country) was afraid that if he left America, he wouldn’t be let back in.

Getting visibly upset, she said, “No one should be afraid of that; that if he left for Engineering Without Borders to do work in Africa and came back on a connecting flight through Dubai…” She trailed off.

A lot of the conversation, the feelings of dealing with rabid liberals who operated purely on emotion and attacked without information, was uncomfortably familiar to me. The sense of defeat when having a conversation with someone on the far other side. Frustration with how polarized everything seems to be. Swap any of the names, and I could’ve easily been sitting in on a group of liberals talking about zealous Republicans.

“It’s hard being the elephant in the room, literally and figuratively,” said Robert, one of the club’s executive board members. That earned major laughs from the members, and even a surprised one from me. Who knew Republicans could have jokes? He was answering in response to Lydia, a Chicago native who was relieved to find a group of like-minded people in such a liberal city.

“So it’s nice to have, well I don’t wanna say the word “safe space” but…” said Robert, laughing again.

They were tired of being demonized, of being labeled as Nazis or homophobes or xenophobes or racists or misogynists, and the list goes on and on. To be fair, it’s a pretty long list. Tired of everything being labeled “the end of the world,” a sentiment, they pointed out, is always expressed by the opposing political side to the president. But the sense that I got from most of them was that their primary motivation for voting Trump was either loyalty to the Republican party or fiscal.

Robert told a story about his Republican parents and his upbringing in Michigan. His mother grew up in Detroit in the sixties and seventies, and was witness to the decline of the industrial community.

“When we heard “Make America Great Again,” that’s what we associated it with,” he said. Not the takeback of the country from diversity, but the bringing back of industrial jobs into areas that are starving without them.

When I asked the group if they felt a disconnect or conflict between being a millennial and being a Republican, their hands were raising before I even finished the question.

“I’m socially more liberal, but fiscally more conservative, so I identify myself as more of a moderate,” said Stacey. That sense, that as Republicans they were most caught up in fiscal matters, seemed to resonate amongst everybody. And when Stacey said the (I assumed) most-hated statement, “I voted for Hillary Clinton,” no one recoiled. No one threw anything at her. Her conflict, between Republican and millennial, was one with which they could all identify.

When people hear the name Republican, felt most of them, they assume white nationalists and xenophobes. But it’s “a wide tent,” said Max, and Republicans are much more diverse than people are willing to believe.

One of the last questions I posed to the group was “Is there something you wish you could tell the other side?”

“Ask questions,” said Rocky. Be able to have a conversation. Be open to having a conversation.

Stacey offered a story from her time interning for Governor Charlie Baker. “Many liberals are turning more moderate, to be able to work with a conservative government,” she said, “And that’s really good to see.”

“Thanks for being willing to listen,” said Louis, the communications chair, when I thanked them for their time.

At the end of the meeting, two girls gingerly approached me. “Um, can I ask you something?” one asked, a woman of color.

“Yeah!” I answered, trying to be friendly but predicting (even after all this) that it might be something rude or blunt or homophobic.

“I was staring at it all meeting; where is your nail polish from?”

I looked down at the minty blue color. “Isn’t it great? It’s called ‘Babe Blue.’ But I don’t know the brand. Sorry!”

She looked genuinely anguished, because it is such a cute color. “Oh, okay. Thanks!”

And when I got home and logged on to Twitter, I saw my liberal newsfeed through different eyes. How would the College Republicans see this? They would say probably that it’s catastrophizing everything. And they might be right.

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