What might have been

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“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'”–Whittier

It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.–Reported from Bến Tre in Viet Nam by Peter Arnett in 1968.

From thousands of phone calls, e-mails, letters, and face-to-face conversations, I heard one clear message: “Obamacare is a disaster for us; it must be repealed.” Constituents complained of sky-high premiums and deductibles due to Obamacare. Business owners explained that Obamacare costs threatened to put them out of business. People objected to paying for other peoples problems: cancer screenings, abortions, contraception, mammograms. Responding to these nearly unanimous voices, we made a three step plan for perfect healthcare.

Yes, perfect healthcare–unbelievably low costs, unbelievably quality service, and perfect freedom to choose the plan which is best for you. A “market based” plan, a “patient centered” plan, sure to lower costs with better quality. No more government coercion, freedom to choose your doctor, no more coverage than your family needs and can afford, just what Americans want.

Enemies of the American people, those on the other side of the aisle, worked to destroy this perfect plan. Rather than work together in the interest of all Americans, they focused their hateful rhetoric only on step one–the necessary first step toward replacing Obamacare, which all recognized was less than perfect, with a much better plan. They purposefully ignored steps two and three, which would have given them everything they asked for. I implored them to be reasonable, to work with us, but they turned their backs on their own professed interests and on the American people.

Obamacare is unsupportable–it costs too much, it is a disaster. When it collapses, I hope people will remember what might have been–repeal followed by replacement with an unbelievably better plan. The thousands of constituents who came to me seeking relief from the mandates of Obamacare will surely be disappointed. So sad.




Posted in Health Care, Humor, Reed's Views, Trump | 1 Comment

The Only NY GOP AHCA Holdout

J_repjohnkatkoohn Katko, (NY24) is the only New York State Republican House member who has declared that he will not vote for the  Trump/Ryan American Health Care Act. You can see the whole list of hold outs here. The NY-24 includes all of Cayuga, Onondaga, and Wayne counties, and the western part of Oswego County.  It includes Syracuse.

Katko will not be easily swayed to vote for the AHCA. The Finger Lakes Times reported Sunday he said:

  • “My position on Obamacare has been clear since I first ran for office in 2014: We need to repeal or radically restructure the law, and have a replacement ready at the time we do so. Despite some promising reforms, I do not support the proposal before the House in its current form.”
  • The congressman said he does not “believe this proposal provides an adequate market-based option for insurance access, nor does it address out-of-control costs. Further, I am confident the proposal would harm hospitals across my district. Hurting New York State, to benefit other regions, does not sit well with me.”
  • He said Republicans need to “take the time to ensure a viable market-based alternative to Obamacare is ready simultaneous with the repeal. I believe we can get there.”

Katko knows his district well. It has been considered as a swing state, changing swung from a Democratic representative  to a Republican for four elections in a row between 2008 and 2014. Katko changed that trend when he won his second term in 2016.

Despite President Trump’s reminder (or threat) that those who vote against the AHCA they will be defeated in 2018, Katko will not flinch.  The district went for Clinton, 48.9% to 45.3%.  Katko did not endorse President Trump in the last campaign and easily defied his democratic opponent, 60.6% to 39.4%.

He has been criticized for not holding Town Hall meetings.

Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, of the neighboring 22nd Congressional District, told Syracuse.com on Wednesday that she is leaning toward voting against the GOP bill because some of its changes are bad for New Yorkers.




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Collins Amendment


House leaders also sought to win support from centrist Republicans from upstate New York leaders by adding a provision (Collins Amendment) that would ban the federal government from reimbursing state Medicaid funds raised by local governments, according to New York Rep. Chris Collins. He told CNN the change would help bring along other members of his state’s delegation who are currently wavering on the bill.

The Collins Amendment might well appeal to upstate NY Republicans who would like much to claim that they had acted to reduce property taxes, but it does nothing to make RyanCare more palatable–reduced property taxes would need to be offset by increases in other taxes or reduction in Medicaid benefits.

A House GOP aide told CNN the change would apply to New York state only. In New York, counties outside of New York City send $2.3 billion to the state to help pay for Medicaid. The amendment would give the state the incentive to stop passing down Medicaid costs to the counties, Collins said.

I don’t know why the Collins Amendment is said to apply to NYS only. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, liberally interpreted, may prohibit tax laws not “uniform throughout the United States.”

Reeds views are hypocritical:

  • The Collins Amendment an “unfunded mandate.”
  • The Collins Amendment interferes with “States’ Rights.”

Nothing new in that! Tom Reed opposes unfunded mandates and upholds States’ rights only when it pleases him to do so.

Collins may be planning to run for Governor. To claim credit for reducing property taxes and to blame Governor Cuomo for offsetting tax increases or benefit cuts would work well for him. Tom Reed might also be interested in running for Governor, if the opportunity presented itself.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, quoted in a WRFA article, explains:

Here are the facts: The overall Medicaid plan would cost the state billions of dollars of lost federal funds and jeopardize hospital stability,” Lt. Gov. Hochul said. “As if that were not enough, Rep. Collins would have the state assume the counties’ share of Medicaid expenses outside of New York City. The current breakdown is 13 percent county, 36 percent state, and 51 percent federal. This ill-conceived plan would cost his home state approximately $2.3 billion. Unbelievably, that’s on top of the cost of the Republican Affordable Care Act repeal plan – another $2.4 billion. Translation: Rep. Collins is proposing a tax increase on New Yorkers to the tune of $4.7 billion.

Will the Collins Amendment be accepted? If it applies only to NYS, one might expect it to have limited appeal to the House. But if House mis-leaders see it as critical to getting their RyanCare bill (AHCA) through the House, they might take care that the Collins Amendment gets the necessary votes.





Posted in Congress, Health Care, Medicare, Political, Reed's Views, Seniors, Taxes | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Advice and Consent


He shall have the Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate…–Constitution Article II, Section 2

Brian Leiter is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. In the Washington Post he writes:

Given the complexity of the law and the complexity involved in saying what really happened in a given dispute, all judges, and especially those on the Supreme Court, often have to exercise a quasi-legislative power: They have to decide what should be done based on their own moral and political values, since existing legal standards conflict, or are indeterminate, or are silent on the problems they confront. The Supreme Court, as the final court of appeal in our system, is the super-legislature of last resort. And that is why Republicans blocked Garland’s nomination and why Trump chose Gorsuch. Republicans expected Garland to vote against their objectives on the super-legislature. Trump expects Gorsuch to vote with the Republicans.

Donald Trump, in today’s “1600 Daily” e-mail writes:

Judge Gorsuch is an inspired choice with sterling academic credentials, a brilliant legal mind and a steadfast commitment to constitutional principles. Judge Gorsuch will honor the legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia. He is a strong believer that judges should base their decisions on the law and the Constitution, not on their own policy preferences or personal feelings.

What a difference–Trump denies the obvious fact that these nominations are political. Professor Leiter continues:

Supreme Court nominations are controversial because the court is a super-legislature, and because its moral and political judgments are controversial. As a super-legislature, it has limited jurisdiction, depending on what cases are brought before it, but those cases are important enough. Just as no one would expect Republicans or Democrats to assent to appointments to the Senate without regard to political ideology, it is naive to expect anything similar in the case of nominations to the Supreme Court.

President Trump says that his nominee will “honor the legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia.” At the very least, the Senate should consider what that legacy is and why it is or isn’t consistent with “justice for all.”


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Health Insurance

empty-wallet1Liberals rage against the Trump-Ryan plan for a lot of reasons, but most of it boils down to anger that fewer people will have coverage. Conservatives are raging too, because, as Kentucky Senator Paul put it, Congress’s proposal will “do nothing” to bring health care costs down or to restrict the steady rise of premiums.–Leslie Danks Burke


There is truth in Leslie Danks Burke’s statement, but views on health care are surely more complex. Is it true that liberals are mostly concerned about universal coverage and that conservatives are mostly concerned about rising costs? I have doubts:

Liberals and conservatives–all of us–are and ought to be concerned about rising costs. Those who understand that Obamacare was intended to slow the rise in costs, and may well have done so, are likely to approve of it. Those who blame Obamacare for rising costs are likely to disapprove. Many are confused by the difference between rising costs and the rate of rise. Obamacare was intended to slow the rate of rise rather than to reverse the long term trend of increasing costs; no plan that I can imagine could do that.

Obamacare has many provisions which are important, but less known than “universal coverage:”

  • Covers the cost of the plan with new taxes
  • Offsets the high cost of drugs.
  • Closes the prescription drug benefit loophole.
  • Provides for preventative care.
  • Mandates coverage for certain benefits.
  • Mandates no lifetime limits on coverage.
  • Covers those with preexisting conditions
  • Covers college students to age 26

In my opinion, the Obama Administration did a relatively poor job in promoting Obamacare. Perhaps it wasn’t possible to explain the benefits adequately in face of strident opposition from opponents.

So what’s not to like about Obamacare? Politicians may be motivated by conflicts of interest while many individuals have these objections:

  • Some object to the involvement of for profit insurers, prefer “single payer”
  • Some object to universal coverage (Why should I pay for your health care?)
  • Some object to coverage for women’s health matters
  • Some consider any form of government insurance to be unacceptable (Socialism)
  • Many blame Obamacare for the high cost of health care in America

What’s not to like about the Trump-Ryan plan?

  • Some want any commitment to government subsidized insurance repudiated.
  • Some, now able to afford insurance, fear losing it.
  • Some, particularly seniors, fear unaffordable costs.

If moderate Republicans and Democrats could work together, it might be possible to design a plan based more or less on Obamacare that would work for many. The divisiveness engendered by six years of die-hard opposition to Obamacare together with the reluctance of the GOP to alienate ultra-conservatives make compromise unlikely. The GOP would do well to take care: do they want to be responsible when costs soar?


Posted in Congress, Health Care, Political, Reed's Views, Taxes, Trump | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

WRITE ON: A rocky road to 2018


Michael Fitzgerald  is a regular contributor to the Finger Lakes Times. His column “WRITE ON” is published every Friday. You can email him at Michael.Fitzgeraldfltcolumnist@gmail.com and visit his website at michaeljfitzgerald.blogspot.com.

New York Congressman Tom Reed has been taking some serious licks in recent weeks in appearances at town halls around the district, with most attendees barely able to contain their pique at his support of the GOP plan to blindly repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Draconian immigration policies, defunding of Planned Parenthood and possible cuts in Social Security and Medicare are also part of a potpourri of issues being raised.

But in addition to those concerns, Reed faced criticism at a packed session in Ovid last weekend by audience members who said he doesn’t listen enough to constituents.

His classic politician’s response drew a chorus of boos and catcalls.

“I represent 717,000 people,” Reed said. “I try to listen to that silent voice.”

If “silent voice” sounds faintly familiar, it’s because it’s a spin on the term “silent majority,” a phrase late-former President Richard Nixon used in a 1969 speech aimed at quieting protests over his handling of the Vietnam War.

Variations of the phrase get dragged out by politicians to lay claim to invisible support for often unpopular positions.

Reed’s problem today is that many of the silent voices that might have unwaveringly supported him in the past are now standing in front of him at town hall meetings demanding to know what exactly is going to happen to their health care.

Platitudes that the newly elected GOP-controlled federal government will simply take care of everything are being met with a roiling mix of skepticism and increased cynicism.

To his credit, at least Reed has been willing to step in front of some pretty angry groups across the sprawling 23rd Congressional district, unlike many of his colleagues. In many other districts across the nation, GOP congressmen are playing duck and cover rather than standing in front of constituents to answer questions about why the GOP wasn’t ready with a plan to replace the ACA the day the new government took office.

But Reed’s generally vague answers — coupled with claims that silent voices in the background count more than people who turn out at town halls — is not a winning strategy for reelection in 2018.

And that’s what these town halls are all about — re-election.

Reed coasted through the last two re-elections while the GOP was spending the majority of its time blocking any progress on any front — a strategy that appealed to anti-Obama, anti-Democratic voters.

Town halls were a big part of Reed’s campaigning, with generally less- strident, less-confrontational audiences willing to listen to his platform palaver about how terrible Obama and the federal government were.

But now that the GOP has the reins of the entire federal budget and the bureaucracy is in its political grasp, citizens are justifiably asking what the GOP plan is about health care.

And everything else.

Eight years of being obstructionists seems to have induced GOP mental atrophy except for the destruction of federal agencies, repealing regulations and regulatory authority in the process.

Removal of clean water and clean air regulations, for example, could spell environmental disaster for the Finger Lakes.

Ditto for any national immigration policy that could discourage legal immigrant workers from working for local farms and vineyards.

The town halls are likely to get even more raucous and confrontational, unless Reed and his House of Representatives’ GOP colleagues quickly put on their thinking caps and come up with some real plans for real progress and not simply try to revoke the social and fiscal progress of last century.

When the electoral/voting clock chimes on Nov. 6, 2018, the silent — and not-so-silent — voices are likely to speak with a unified voice.



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koreaThe policy of strategic patience has ended. –Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are both unpredictable and therefore dangerous. Rex Tillerson is new to his job. Tillerson says US policy has failed in Korea, but I think not–war has been avoided for fifty years which is hardly failure. Defense Department and State Department experts may know how Kim is likely to respond to threats, but are Trump and Tillerson listening? How much does Kim know about Trump? Probably not much.

War in Korea would be a humanitarian catastrophe. Seoul is a city of more than ten million; war would likely cause panic there. Tokyo might be attacked. War is never easy or cheap.

What was accomplished by war in Afghanistan? What good was done by war in Iraq? Who anticipated the damage done by unexpected weapons, IEDs for example? What good could possibly come from war in Korea even if it caused the rapid collapse of the North Korean government? What is our exit strategy? What might the Koreans do to thwart our plans?




Posted in Defense, Political, Trump, War | Tagged , , | 2 Comments