Government Run Like A Business Led To Lead In Flint’s Water

“If the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water, we would have done something about it.”
– Hillary Clinton

“There are no excuses. The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing. As a result, hundreds of children were poisoned. Thousands may have been exposed to potential brain damage from lead. Gov. Snyder should resign.”
– Bernie Sanders

You might have heard that there is lead in Flint’s water. You’re not going to believe how much. And you’re not going to believe how bad lead exposure is for people. But you’ll probably believe it happened because government-hating Republicans set aside democracy so Flint’s residents couldn’t stop them from running government “like a business” and cutting government spending.

Trade Policies Sent The Jobs Away

Michigan is one state that has been hard hit by our country’s trade policies. Once considered the center of the automobile industry, factories and jobs were sent out of the country to places where people are exploited and barely paid, and the environment is not protected. (Yes, we let them do that.)

The result has been absolutely devastating (see “ruin porn“) to Michigan cities like Detroit and Flint as jobs disappeared and people who could afford to move to try to find jobs did just that. The rest of the city’s residents are left in poverty amidst miles of boarded-up, abandoned and falling-down buildings and homes, empty storefronts, and absolutely overwhelmed and underfunded public services. Help from the state and federal governments is not forthcoming.

Run Government Like A Business

Rick Snyder is a businessman (CEO, venture capitalist) who in 2010 campaigned for governor on running government like a business, promising to be the CEO governor who would create jobs. Michigan was starved for jobs, first from Wall-Street-sponsored deindustrialization, then from the Wall-Street-caused crash and recession/depression. So any promise of jobs went a long way. Maybe it was time to try turning government over to someone wealthy from outside government who said he knew better than government how to run government. Daily Beast noted at the time, “there is a more than a hint of plutocrats-know-best in Rick Snyder’s campaign pitch.”

But government in a democracy is nothing like a business. It is supposed to organize itself to deliver services and make people’s lives better, not profit off the people. Managing government and business requires entirely different skill sets and mindsets. (Also, that thing about businesses “creating jobs?” That’s not what businesses strive to do; they strive to cut costs and eliminate jobs. According to the Daily Beast, “While Snyder was on the board of Gateway [a U.S.-based computer company that had its heyday in the 1990s but ceased independent operations in 2007], the company’s workforce contracted from 21,000 American workers in 2000 to 7,400 workers in 2003.”)

Emergency Manager Law, Setting Aside Democracy

In 2011, Republicans passed a controversial law allowing the governor to run government like a business and appoint a CEO-style “emergency manager” when a city is considered to be financially irresponsible (i.e., too black). Under the law, it does not matter that the people of the city already elected a mayor, council and other leaders. The governor sets the election aside, brings in an emergency manager to take control of the local government, reduce its size and cost, and privatize public property, no matter the effect on the people there.

Like a turnaround CEO brought in from another company, the emergency manager has few connections to the community. Cut services, cut costs, strip, streamline, just like a business would do. (Such cities are typically surrounded by well-off “white-flight” suburban areas that are not required to financially or otherwise participate in solving the problems.)

The affected communities didn’t like that, and, unlike a business, could still do something about it. Michigan’s emergency manager law was repealed by referendum in 2012. So Republicans re-passed it in a lame duck legislative session. But this time they included a small appropriation, which under Michigan law meant it cannot be subject to a voter referendum. That’s that; the board has spoken, everybody get in line, all row in the same direction, play on the same team, run the ball down the field, just like in a business, or get out. Except unlike in a business there is no “get out” – you still live there.

[fve]https://youtu.be/QFCt-U7Tbhw[/fve]

Public Health Emergency

Flint’s public health emergency started when the city’s emergency manager “saved money” ($8.5 million over 5 years) by switching the city’s water source from Detroit via a pipeline to drawing water from the polluted Flint River. People involved in water systems will tell you that river water is acidic, which leaches lead and other metals from pipes, but they were not asked. The emergency managers could have added corrosion control chemicals to the water, but that would be more “government spending,” and they didn’t.

This happened in April 2014. Immediately people started complaining about the taste and smell of the now-brown water that was coming into their homes. For 18 months people complained. They started getting rashes. People’s hair was falling out. The government, run like a business, did what businesses do: they entered “damage-control mode,” denied there was a problem, blamed the messengers and tried to spin things their way. City and state officials said the water was OK. But there were growing concerns that there was a problem.

A Flint pediatrician, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Children’s Hospital, compared blood test results for 1,746 children in Flint before and after April 2014 and discovered an increase in lead levels. “But when we announced the results, the state called me ‘an unfortunate researcher causing near hysteria,’ an ‘irresponsible researcher.’”

Then, in September, 2015, a study from Virginia Tech‘s Marc Edwards was released showing dangerous levels of lead in the water. Then in October city officials finally said, yes, something is wrong with the water and people should not drink it.

What was happening? Lead and other metals were “leaching” into the water as corrosion affected old pipes. From April 2014 until October 2015 the people of Flint were forced to drink contaminated water, filled with toxic amounts of lead and other metals.

How Much Lead Are We Talking About?

How much lead is in Flint’s water? Brace yourself.

The Washington Post provided a way to understand just how much lead, in “This is how toxic Flint’s water really is“:

In the spring of 2015, city officials tested water in the home of LeeAnne Walters, a stay-at-home mother of four and a Navy wife. They got a reading of 397 ppb, an alarmingly high number.

But it was even worse than that. Virginia Tech’s team went to Walters’ house to verify those numbers later in the year. They were concerned that the city tested water in a way that was almost guaranteed to minimize lead readings: They flushed the water for several minutes before taking a sample, which often washes away a percentage of lead contaminants. They also made residents collect water at a very low flow rate, which they knew also tended to be associated with lower readings.

So the Virginia Tech researchers took 30 different readings at various flow levels. What they found shocked them: The lowest reading they obtained was around 200 ppb, already ridiculously high. But more than half of the readings came in at more than 1,000 ppb. Some came in above 5,000 — the level at which EPA considers the water to be “toxic waste.”

The highest reading registered at 13,000 ppb.

Five parts per billion of lead are a concern. When lead reaches 15 parts per billion, the EPA says you are in trouble. 5,000 parts per billion is considered “toxic waste.”

From April 2014 until October 2015 (and later, and still) the people of Flint were drinking water with up to 13,000 parts per billion of lead in it.

What Lead Does To Health, Especially Children

Lead has terrible and irreversible effects on people’s health, especially children. Even low levels – 5 parts per billion – of exposure have been shown to have many subtle health effects.

According to the CDC, short-term exposure can cause people to feel:
● Abdominal pain
● Constipated
● Tired
● Headaches
● Irritable
● Loss of appetite
● Memory loss
● Pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet
● Weak

But if a pregnant woman is exposed, it can damage a developing baby’s nervous system. “Even low-level lead exposures in developing babies have been found to affect behavior and intelligence. Lead exposure can cause miscarriage, stillbirths, and infertility (in both men and women).”

In children lead exposure has “lasting neurological and behavioral damage.” It leads to intellectual disabilities, serious difficulty controlling impulses, retaining information and learning in school. It is difficult or impossible for them to later have thought-intensive jobs.

Lead can also keep the body from getting nutrients required for cell development and the growth of strong teeth and bones. (One way it does this is to “inhibit or mimic the actions of calcium.”)

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) “How Lead Poisons the Human Body,” “The lead builds up in soft tissue — kidneys, bone marrow, liver, and brain — as well as bones and teeth. … Some scientists believe that low-level chronic lead exposure in childhood can alter secretion of the human growth hormone, stunting growth and promoting obesity.”

The NRDC document has a warning for the future: “Unfortunately, most children do not present overt symptoms of poisoning. Because their symptoms (ranging from irritability to stomach upset) may not be immediately recognizable as lead-related the majority of cases go undetected.”

[fve]https://youtu.be/27K54-lV-Z4[/fve]

Cover Up?

Between April 2014 and October 2015, when studies confirmed that the water was poisoning people in Flint, people fought to get the city and state to do something. The water smelled, was brown, tasted bad and people were experiencing symptoms from it. And doctors were warning that people were showing signs of lead poisoning but could not yet confirm from where it was coming. All along the state kept saying this was not the result of the emergency manager’s decision to switch Flint’s water source to cut government spending, business-style.

It’s not as if people around the country were not trying to sound the alarm.

In May 2014, just a month after the water switch, the city learned that trihalomethanes ( TTHMs) were above levels allowed in the Clean Water Act, but did not inform residents until January 2015, and did not switch back to safe water.

In October 2014, GM noticed that the water was corroding engines and started trucking water in from elsewhere.

In March 2015, The New York Times reported:

After Flint changed the source of its drinking water last spring, Ms. Mays said, she noticed a change in the water’s color and odor. Then she started having rashes, and clumps of her hair fell out. When the city issued a boil order, she stopped using the water for drinking and cooking. Now her family spends roughly $400 a month on bottled water.

… Flint officials insist that the city’s water is safe. They say that the issues of odor and color are separate from the question of whether the water meets federal standards, and that no link to health problems has been proved.

…“I don’t feel hopeful,” Mr. Palladeno said. “At one time, I loved this town. I still love it. There’s good people here. But the governing is killing us. I think we need a federal intervention.”

The Atlantic wrote in July 2015:

Melissa Mays looks around the emergency room at a frail, elderly man in a wheelchair and a woman with a hacking cough and can’t quite believe she’s here. Until a few months ago, she was healthy—an active mother of three boys who found time to go to the gym while holding down a job as a media consultant and doing publicity for bands.

But lately, she’s been feeling sluggish. She’s developed a rash on her leg, and clumps of her hair are falling out. She ended up in the emergency room last week after feeling “like [her] brain exploded,” hearing pops, and experiencing severe pain in one side of her head.

Mays blames her sudden spate of health problems on the water in her hometown of Flint. She says it has a blue tint when it comes out of her faucet, and lab results indicate it has high amounts of copper and lead. Her family hasn’t been drinking the water for some months, but they have been bathing in it, since they have no alternative.

The State of Michigan, under the direction of Governor Rick Snyder, tried to keep the story under wraps, and deny there was a problem, apparently even after they knew there was a serious problem. As late as September the state was still denying there was a problem with the water from the Flint river, and taking issue with the studies saying otherwise. Michigan Live wrote, “State says data shows no link to Flint River, elevated lead in blood“:

Angela Minicuci, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said blood lead levels in Flint have remained fairly steady for children under 16 years old since the city switched from Lake Huron water to the river.

However, while denying there was a problem, the governor’s office was secretly ordering filters be supplied to Flint.

Professor Marc Edwards from Virginia Tech University says the reason the state was still denying the link could be that they altered data from samples. CNN reports in “Did Michigan officials hide the truth about lead in Flint?

Documents and emails show discrepancies between two reports detailing the toxicity of lead samples collected by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the city of Flint between January and June 2015, Professor Marc Edwards from Virginia Tech University said.

… According to Edwards, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the city of Flint collected 71 lead level samples from homes when they were required to collect 100. The final report from the Department of Environmental Quality however, only accounted for 69 of those 71 samples.

Edwards said those two discarded samples were “high-lead” and would have lifted the “action level” above 15 parts per billion.

But wait, there’s more,

Edwards said the samples should have been taken from homes with lead pipes. The reports say they were, but Michael Glasgow, then-assistant supervisor of the Flint water plant, said this is not true. Glasgow told CNN the records were not complete, and the sampling teams did not know which homes had lead pipes.

“In essence, the state took an ‘F-grade’ for Flint water’s report on lead and made it into an ‘A-grade,'” Edwards told CNN.

But wait, there’s more,

The memo notes that residents were instructed to “pre-flush” taps before samples were taken, a practice that has been shown “to result in the minimization of lead capture and significant underestimation of lead levels.”

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality notified the city on June 25, 2015 that they had found high lead levels in some of the samples. It was after that notification that the samples changed, and showed no more lead.

Now Legionnaire’s Disease, Too

On top of the lead crisis, Legionnaire’s disease is breaking out in Flint, also apparently a consequence of the problems with Flint’s water. So far 87 cases of Legionnaire’s Disease, 10 of them fatal, have turned up.

Federal Emergency

Saturday President Obama declared a federal emergency in Flint. This means the federal government, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies can start to help the people there. FEMA will provide water, filters and cartridges and other items, up to $5 million. However, he did not declare Flint and its county, Genesee, to be disaster areas, which would bring additional funds and assistance, because that status has always been used for natural disasters rather than man-made (in this case we should say Republican-made) ones.

This crisis is terrible news for Flint. It comes as Flint was entering a period of revival. The University of Michigan had opened dormitories for its Flint campus and the result was new restaurants and shops springing up. Housing prices were finally stabilizing and increasing.

What Must Be Done

Michael Moore wrote a public letter to President Obama (with a petition, click through) asking for President Obama to provide federal assistance:

● The CDC here at once to truly assess all of the disease and damage that has been forced upon the people of Flint.

● FEMA has to supply large water containers in every home in Flint — and they must be filled by water trucks until the new infrastructure is resolved.

● The EPA must take over matters from the State (can the governor be removed and replaced like he did to the mayor of Flint?). Immediately.

● You must send in the Army Corps of Engineers to build that new water infrastructure. Otherwise, you might as well just evacuate all the people from Flint and move them to a white city that has clean drinking water — and where this would never happen.

The people in Flint are going to need complete health evaluations and care for any problems that show up. But this is also a long-term public health crisis. People will need evaluation and care for years.

Flint’s children that have been affected are going to need special teaching and other assistance, as well as other help for the rest of their lives.

Rachel Maddow

The reason this story has come to the attention of the nation is because Rachel Maddow has been pounding on it and making people listen. Here are links to some of the segments Maddow has shown. (If you only watch one, watch this one.)

● Dec. 15, 2015 Lead-poisoned children prompt emergency declaration from mayor

● Dec. 18, 2015, Kids’ toxic test results raised alarm over water supply: Doctor

● Dec. 19, 2015, Flint toxic water tragedy points directly to Michigan Gov. Snyder

● Dec 22, 2015, Snyder admin allowed Flint to drink toxic water despite warnings

● Dec. 23, 2015, Flint community scrambles to cope with state’s water error

● Dec. 29, 2015, Michigan governor apologizes for Flint water

● Jan. 4, 2016, New calls for federal probe of Snyder admin in Flint water fiasco

● Jan. 6, 2016, Flint water concerns ‘blown off’ by state: Snyder staffer e-mail

● Jan. 7, 2016, Water donations run dry in Flint, no action from Governor Snyder

● Jan. 11, 2016, Meager progress in Flint toxic water crisis by Michigan’s Snyder

● Jan. 13, 2016, Spike in cases of Legionnaires’ eyed for tie to Flint toxic water

● Jan. 15, 2015, Clinton chastises Snyder on Flint, state calls for federal help

Other Resources

Listen to “Not Safe to Drink,” a special documentary about the Flint water crisis

● Daily Kos, Anatomy of a community poisoned: The water disaster in Flint, Michigan

How To Help

How to help Flint, Michigan

How you can help people in Flint during the water crisis

Ways to help Flint residents during water crisis

Bottles for the Babies

One more thing. Like a business, Flint is telling customers they still owe for the poisoned water. They are sending shut-off notices to residents telling them they will be cut off if they do not pay up.

Government is not a business. It shouldn’t be thought of as a business and especially not run like a business. Government is supposed to represent us, We the People, and help us have better lives. It should serve us, not profit off of us and disregard our lives.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Tune In To Nicole Sandler’s Radio or Not Wednesday

From Nicole:

Thursday marks the 6th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v FEC (and the day they pulled the plug on Air America too).

Tomorrow (Wed 1/20), I’ll host a debate between David Cobb of Move to Amend, who’s working towards a constitutional amendment that proclaims corporations are not people and money is not speech, and Shaun McCutcheon, who challenged the aggregate limits on how much money an individual could contribute to a national party and to federal candidates and won at the Supreme Court.

The debate will air live on The Nicole Sandler Show at 11:20 Eastern. The show streams live at radioornot.com, the Radio or Not tunein channel at nicolesandlershow.com.

Is The Sanders Campaign “Going Negative?

The Clinton campaign is accusing the Sanders campaign of “going negative.” It’s all over the news. Did Sanders really “go negative”? Or is this Clinton accusation just an attempt to “muddy the waters” as Clinton’s attacks on Sanders’ health care plans backfire?

In The News: Clinton Campaign Says Sanders “Going Negative”

The Clinton campaign has accused the Sanders campaign of “going negative.” Here are a few examples of what’s going on in the news:

ABC: Clinton Campaign Accuses Bernie Sanders of Breaking Pledge Not to Go ‘Negative’,

The Clinton campaign held an abruptly scheduled conference call with reporters this afternoon to respond to the ad.

“We were very surprised today to see that Bernie Sanders had launched a negative television advertisement against Hillary,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said.

“This ad does something that Bernie said he wouldn’t do,” campaign pollster Joel Benenson added, referring to how the Vermont Senator has said he will not run negative campaign ads.

Similar story in The Guardian: Clinton campaign ‘surprised’ over Bernie Sanders’s new ‘negative’ TV ad

The Hill: Clinton campaign decries Sanders’s ‘negative ad’

What Are They All Talking About?

Here is what they’re talking about. The Sanders campaign is running this ad.

Negative? You might have to play that ad a few times to even get what the Clinton people are upset about. MSNBC explains what it is, in, New Sanders ad takes aim at Clinton’s Wall Street donors,

In what is by far his most toughest TV ad yet, Bernie Sanders took a not-so-subtle swipe at rival Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street donations in a new spot that will soon be broadcast in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“There are two Democratic visions for regulating Wall Street,” Sanders says, looking straight at the camera. “One says it’s okay to take millions from big banks and then tell them what to do.”

“My plan: break up the big banks, close the tax loopholes, and make them pay their fair share. Then we can expand health care to all and provide universal college education,” he continues. “Will they like me? No. Will they begin to play by the rules when I’m president? You better believe it.

The Clinton campaign is upset that the Sanders ad refers to the millions of dollars Clinton has received from Wall Street firms for “speaking fees” in the last several years.

That is the basis for the accusation that Sanders is “going negative.” The Clinton campaign is complaining that it is out-of-bounds to say Clinton has received millions of dollars in “speaking fees” from the companies she will be responsible for regulating if she becomes President. They are upset over the implication that this is a conflict of interest.

Clinton Healthcare Accusations Backfiring

These attacks on the Sanders campaign come just as an earlier attack appears to be backfiring. Over the last week the Clinton campaign has made a number of accusations over Sanders’ “Medicare-for-All” single-payer universal health care plan. Because it combines all current healthcare programs (Obamacare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program known as “CHIP”, etc.) into a single Medicare-style plan they said it “dismantles” those programs. They said it will “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”

The Clinton campaign has even gone so far as to accuse Sanders of lying, saying Sanders “can’t level with the American people” about his healthcare plan because it means there will be taxes to pay for it even though almost all of the public will have more money in their pocket at the end of the day because it eliminates premiums, co-pays and deductibles, as well as ends the necessity for employers to provide health insurance.

The Clinton accusations appear to have backfired on Clinton because 81% of Democrats favor the idea (and 58% of the public-at-large). There is widespread outrage at the Clinton campaign for “attacking” an idea so favored by so many.

In a Thursday Clinton interview on the Rachel Maddow show, Maddow confronted Clinton on thsee accusations, saying, “He’s a very well respected figure. Your campaign is essentially fighting with him now in a way that is casting aspersions on his character, calling him dishonest.” Maddow pointed out the Clinton campaign has said Sanders “has not done what he has promised,” and “has shifted answers.”

Muddying The Waters?

In the middle of this controversy it appears that the Clinton campaign is trying to turn things around and “muddy the waters” by accusing the Sanders campaign of being the ones who are “going negative.” CNN sums it up, in Bernie Sanders grapples with promise not to go negative against Hillary Clinton

[A]s the race for the Democratic nomination gets tighter and nastier, Sanders’ campaign is confronting that promise when it considers how to respond to attacks from the Clinton campaign, walking the fine line between drawing contrasts with the former secretary of state and outright attacking her.

Old-Style Politics VS A New Politics Of Issues

The Sanders campaign has brought a new style of campaigning to our country’s politics. Sanders is campaigning entirely on issues. He refuses to play along with the corporate media’s politics-as-entertainment style of covering the “horse race” aspect of campaigns. He does not get involved with personality discussions, etc, always reverting to his “message.” This is winning him converts.

The Clinton campaign is a perfection of an older style of politics. They are raising tremendous amounts of campaign cash, they have a “SuperPAC” that is raising a tremendous amount more, they have built up a solid “machine” in the states, they are racking up “top-down” endorsements, and doing what they can to bring a sense of “inevitability” to her nomination.

These are contrasting styles, and it is not clear which is the best approach to winning a campaign in the modern United States with its entrenched corporate media fixated on entertainment-style coverage. The Clinton campaign might just be doing what it takes to win an election. This may be especially the case as the election draws near and the less-informed voters, with little time or inclination to study the many issues involved, look for the kinds of queues on who to trust and who will deliver.

On the other hand, we might be entering a new era when people are “fed up,” are paying more attention, studying the issues and seeing through the old-style manipulations that have defined our country’s political process for so long.

With the Republicans looking more and more like they are going to nominate Donald Trump, and with Ted Cruz running second it is vitally important to Democrats, the country and the world to win the November election.

So will that take the old-style politics, or will the new issues-oriented politics take over? We will see between now and November and we had better be right.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Clinton’s Pre-Iowa Assault On Sanders’ Medicare-For-All Plan

As the Iowa caucuses draw near and as Bernie Sanders closes in on Hillary Clinton in the polls, Clinton has started “attacking” (media word) Sanders’ proposals for providing universal health care through a Medicare-for-All plan.

The corporate media largely covers the horse-race aspect of this as an entertainment item. Here is a look at the substance of Clinton’s assertions.

Medicare For All

Sanders has proposed replacing “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act mandate to purchase insurance from private companies, with a Medicare-for-All, “single-payer,” “universal heath care” plan. In other words, he proposes to extend (and expand) the current Medicare system to cover every American so they can stop having to locate and purchase private insurance policies. Sanders’ plan would also end the need for other government health programs, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Medicare for All is very popular, especially among Democrats. The December 2015 Kaiser Health Tracking poll found that 58 percent of Americans support it (34 percent strongly), with 81 percent of Democrats and 6 in 10 independents saying they favor the idea. “This is compared to 34 percent who say they oppose it, including 25 percent who strongly oppose it,” the poll said. Among Republicans, 63 percent say they oppose it.

Proposing Medicare for All is not just the right policy for the country, it is very smart politics.

Clinton Attacks

Clinton claims that Sanders’ plan would require a big tax hike. Politico reports this claim, in “Clinton hits Sanders on middle class tax hikes“:

“Bernie Sanders has called for a roughly 9-percent tax hike on middle-class families just to cover his health-care plan,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon, referring to legislation Sanders introduced in 2013, “and simple math dictates he’ll need to tax workers even more to pay for the rest of his at least $18-20 trillion agenda. If you are truly concerned about raising incomes for middle-class families, the last thing you should do is cut their take-home pay right off the bat by raising their taxes.”

More recently, Clinton’s daughter Chelsea claimed that Sanders’ Medicare-for-All plan would “dismantle Medicare” and “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.” (Clinton later stood by her daughter’s statement.) The Huffington Post reported:

“Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the [Children’s Health Insurance Program], dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” she said, according to an account from NBC News. “I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era – before we had the Affordable Care Act – that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”

The Clinton campaign also said that Sanders’ plan would “send health insurance to the states, turning over your and my health insurance to governors” including Republican governors like Iowa’s Terry Branstad. “I don’t believe number one we should be starting over. We had enough of a fight to get to the Affordable Care Act. So I don’t want to rip it up and start over,” Clinton said.

Sanders Campaign’s Response

Sanders campaign spokeswoman Ariana Jones responded:

“It is time for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world and provide health care as a right to every man, woman, and child. A Medicare-For-All plan will save the average middle-class family $5,000 a year. Further, the Clinton campaign is wrong. Our plan will be implemented in every state in the union regardless of who is governor.”

Sanders himself explained his health care plan and his strategic thinking behind it in an interview Wednesday with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. The claim of $5,000 a year in savings for average middle-class families refers to the plan’s elimination of ever-increasing private insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles that people currently have to pay under Obamacare. People would end up paying less and in many cases much less – an average of $5,000 each year. Companies would also no longer have to provide health insurance coverage for employees.

On the claim that Sanders’ has a “$18-20 trillion agenda,” switching to Medicare for All would replace the current costs of Medicaid, CHIP, Obamacare and other healthcare programs. Sanders’ plan would actually cost fewer trillions in the future than continuing the current system. The large “trillions” figure is misleading because it does not take into account the cost of the current system of Medicare for people over 65, Medicaid, CHIP, current Obamacare subsidies and other government health programs that would be replaced by Sanders’ plan. Left alone these would add up to more than Sanders’ plan.

Since Sanders’ plan also removes private-company profits from the system, this “Sanders agenda” amount is actually lower than the cost of continuing with the current system. (It also includes Sanders’ plans to repair the country’s infrastructure, cut college costs, and the rest of his proposals. Note that Sanders has outlined specific revenue sources to cover the costs of the proposals.)

The claim that Sanders’ plan would “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance” is perhaps the most misleading and disingenuous claim of all. People would not be “stripped” of their insurance; everyone would get Medicare instead so people would not need “insurance.” Clinton’s “strip” wording here implies that millions of people would lose health care, when in fact they would only lose the need to pay insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

[fve]https://youtu.be/ABwdClfKwHQ[/fve]

Sanders responded to this respectfully, saying, “As much as I admire Chelsea Clinton, she didn’t read the plan.”

Old-Style Politics

Clinton’s accusations over Sanders’ Medicare-for-All proposal are not based on the actual policy proposals. They misrepresent the positions and are misleading at best. Some call this “blatantly dishonest.”

“Muddying the waters” by implying that “millions and millions and millions” of people will be “stripped” of their insurance, when the proposal actually replaces insurance is the kind of politics-of-the-past that people have rejected, even come to despise. Telling people they will have to pay a “tax” when the proposal actually reduces the amounts people will pay out of their pocket is misleading at best.

These accusations come out of an old style of politicking that is void of substance and depends on manipulation of people’s understanding of issues. Misleading people by misrepresenting the policy positions in this way borders on a character attack instead of contrasting policy positions. It is a politics of personality versus the politics of issues that Sanders is popularizing.

Here is Clinton in 2008, talking about Democrats who attack proposals for universal health care, as Clinton has done to Sanders’ plan this year:

[fve]https://youtu.be/hFOujExdPpw[/fve]

Sanders is campaigning on what the country should be doing. Clinton is now campaigning on why she should be president instead of on what she would do as president. She is trying to turn people against Sanders instead of winning them over to her. She is using misrepresentations and deceptions, not serious and constructive policy disputes. This should be rejected by voters.

Worse, misrepresenting Sanders’ positions in this way risks reinforcing voter apprehension about Clinton’s “trustability” as well as about the entire political process. At a time when voters crave honesty, Clinton’s attack reinforces arguments that Sanders offers an “authenticity” and consistency that Clinton does not. Clinton should return to offering policies to solve the country’s actual and important problems and stop trying to turn voters against opponents and the process itself.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Keystone, Food Labeling Cases Demonstrate TPP’s Threat To Democracy

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has provisions that allow corporations to sue governments for laws and regulations that limit profits. The cases bypass national court systems and are heard by “corporate courts” with the governments allowed no appeal. These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions are also in trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement.

When fast-track trade promotion authority was being debated, people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren raised warning flags about the ISDS provisions in TPP.

[. . .] In her letter, Warren raises concerns that the deal could include provisions that would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. policies before a judicial panel outside the domestic legal system, increasing exposure of American taxpayers to potential damages.

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Supreme Court Appears Ready To Bankrupt Public-Employee Unions

Renee_AFSCMEAfter a decades-long effort to place ideologically committed “movement” members in the judicial branch of government, funded by extremely wealthy individuals and their corporations, it looks like the resulting corporate/conservative wing of the Supreme Court is ready to make a ruling that would bankrupt public-employee unions. And clearly already-decimated private-sector unions will be the next target.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. In this case the Court is asked to overturn a unanimous 1977 decision that said public-employee unions can charge nonmembers a fee to cover the cost of the services the unions are required by law to provide those nonmembers. The fee does not cover political activities of the union, only the cost of services the unions must, by law, provide.

If the corporate/billionaire class gets its way – and it looks like it will – the terrible inequality you see in the country today is nothing compared to what’s coming. Having grabbed all the income gains since the recession, having wiped out the middle class, having pushed so much to the top that a few families now have more wealth than all of the rest of us combined, now the corporate/billionaire class is coming after the rest of the money in the economy.

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Watch: Republican Cuts Poisoned Flint

From The Agenda Project Action Fund, of The Agenda Project (send them money)

“Governor Snyder’s actions are a perfect portrayal of Republican priorities: they let diseases spread, they permit trains to crash, and now they are telling parents to watch their children suffer. All of this in the name of the almighty dollar,” said Agenda Project’s President Erik Altieri, “It is a disgusting, yet totally expected move from this, quite literally, toxic political party.”

Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder was following the Republican mantra of “all budget cuts are good cuts” when he broke Flint away from Detroit’s water system in 2014 to save an estimated $15 million a year. He pursued this plan while ignoring reports that showed Flint’s river water was contaminated with lead and unsafe for drinking. But, like any “good” Republican, the governor decided that the risk of poisoning an entire city was a small price to pay in order to save some money.

Why You Should Pay Attention To The ‘Friedrichs’ Supreme Court Case

The Supreme Court has once again decided to reconsider “settled law.” This time it is a case involving the rights of public-employee unions to charge employees a fee for the services the unions are required by law to provide to all employees – even those who are not members of the union. The goal is to bankrupt the unions by denying them the funds necessary to perform the required services.

The argument is that since unions protect working people’s pay and rights, paying fees for union services therefore violates the “free speech” of those who support concentrated wealth and power.

This case is going to be argued before the Supreme Court on Monday. Here’s why you need to pay attention.

Payment For Services Unions Are Required By Law To Provide

When a public-employee union negotiates a contract, even employees who are not union-members get the pay increases, sick pay, vacation pay, union services and other benefits of the contract. Union services include the cost of collective bargaining, administering the resulting contract, and representing employees who have grievances under the contract.

Currently, unions are required by law to provide these services to every employee covered by a union contract, even if those employees are not union members. So, the unions charge an “agency fee” to those non-union employees to cover the costs.

Public-Employee Unions Support Communities, Not Just The Workers

Public-employee unions, by their nature, fight for the interests not just of employees but of the entire community. On a Wednesday call about the implications of the Freidrichs case, members of public-employee unions described how their unions help them serve the whole community.

Vincent Variale, a New York Fire Department EMS lieutenant and 9/11 first responder, said it is important for first responders to have a voice at the table, because they fight for preventive safety regulations, good equipment and adequate staffing levels.

For example, he said that on 9/11 they had no respirators, so it was hard to provide medical care as needed. His union local brought these concerns to the fire department and fought to get better equipment. Now they have respirators and protective equipment that allows them to work in harsh environments, like building collapses, providing medical care that is needed. And now that there is such a concern about “active shooters,” the union is proactively trying to get bulletproof vests. This demonstrates how unions protect the citizens their members serve.

Pankaj Sharma, a high school teacher in Illinois, talked about how his union works to stop cuts to the most marginalized and at-risk students. Special education, for example, is an expensive program and is often a target for cuts. The union fights this. The union also advocates for referendums to get high quality facilities. Because teaching has a high turnover rate, the union created a mentoring program to help keep teachers. This helps school districts and the students.

Coming Soon: Not Just Public Employees

In 2014 the Court ruled 5-4 that the First Amendment prohibited unions from collecting a fee from home health care providers who are not members of the union, even though the union was required to provide services.

Because of the makeup of the Court it is likely to rule in Freidrichs that nonmembers no longer have to pay those fees while the unions will still be required to provide those services. (Why else would the Court have taken this case?)

These cases are about public employees, but undoubtedly all of this is intended to lead also to attacking the same requirements for private-employee unions. This is about making every state a “right-to-work” state, and suppressing unions and wages.

Corporate Conservative Court Is Reconsidering Supposedly “Settled” Cases

In 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that public-employee unions can charge this fee. So for decades this has been considered to be “settled law.”

But now the Supreme Court has a majority of members who made their way to the court with corporate-funded conservative backing. So the court is systematically reversing older “settled” cases that affect corporations, workers rights, and other elements of conservative ideology like voting rights and womens’ rights.

This time the conservatives on the Court are reconsidering the unanimously and four-decade-settled Abood decision. The case the Court is using to accomplish this is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The court is going to decide if non-union public employees will still be required to pay for the services unions required by law to provide them. All bets are that it will be another 5-4 decisions in favor of the corporate-conservative position.

The “Free Speech” Argument

The argument being used this time is that making people pay for services they receive, even when those services are required by law, violates their “freedom of speech.” This is said to be about “speech” because unions represent working people, enabling them to band together and collectively bargain, and thereby confront those with concentrated wealth and power on a more level playing field. Therefore, by their very nature, unions are engaging in “political activity,” and making people pay for the services unions provide is “unconstitutionally compelled political speech.”

In other words, because unions engage in the activity of fighting for better wages, rights, and protection, therefore the “rights” of those who would deny people those things are put at risk if unions are funded. Assisting unions in this mission by paying this fee thereby violates the free speech of those who support concentrated wealth and power.

We The People vs Concentrated Wealth And Power

The current majority of the Supreme Court was brought to its position with funding and backing of those on that other side – corporate-funded conservatives. These are the “people” whose “free speech rights” the Court says are being violated if unions receive funds enabling them to represent working people. These corporations are also the “people” who the Court ruled are allowed to put unlimited money into our elections because of “free speech.”

The Supreme Court repeatedly takes the position that anything that protects working people and regular citizens from concentrated wealth and power is by its very nature “political advocacy” and therefore violates the “free speech” of those few with concentrated wealth and power.

But the United States of America was founded by We the People – all of us “created equal” – with the purpose of banding together to protect ourselves and secure our liberty from concentrated wealth and power. This Supreme Court is consistently issuing 5-4 rulings that go against the very reasons our country was founded and our Constitution was written.

As the Supreme Court hears this case on Monday, that day will mark the beginning of a week of action to ensure that the public is aware of what’s at stake: the ability of workers to stand up for themselves and for the people they serve. Please visit America Works Together – a coalition of working people and their allies, working people like teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other public service workers who are passionate about our work, and learn more about what you can do during the week of action.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

The Infrastructure Cure For The Economy

Everyone understands that our (and the world’s) economy is underperforming. While U.S. unemployment is down, people are finding jobs that underpay and/or don’t provide enough hours. Regular people just don’t have enough to get by – never mind enough to drive consumer economies. The lack of pay causes a drop in consumer demand, which leads to economic malaise.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz puts it clearly: “The only cure for the world’s malaise is an increase in aggregate demand.”

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Dem Debate Schedule Is Allowing GOP To Frame Election Narrative

There’s just no way around it: the Democrats are intentionally hiding their presidential candidates from the public.

The last Democratic presidential debate was buried on a Saturday night up against the opening of Star Wars. Naturally it drew a fraction of earlier Republican debate audiences – and even of the earlier Democratic debates. The next debate is scheduled, astonishingly, on a Sunday night, January 17, the middle day of a three-day weekend. But just in case that might still draw an audience, it is also up against NFL playoff games. What is going on?

Partly as a result of this scheduling, Republican presidential candidates and their campaign proposals dominate the news and therefore the public’s attention. But the Republican candidates are not addressing the country’s many problems or offering serious proposals for solving them. Banning certain religions? Even more tax cuts for the rich and their corporations? Unleashing oil companies? More guns? What?

Meanwhile Democrats, with superior candidates and serious proposals for actually addressing our problems, are barely part of the national discussion. Is the pubic hearing about the need for infrastructure investment? No. Is the public hearing about the need to expand Social Security? No. These are winning proposals, but the debate schedule is keeping the public from hearing them. It’s as if the leadership of the Democratic party wants to lose the coming election.

John Nichols at The Nation sums it up well, in “Resolution for 2016: Let’s Have Lots More Presidential Debates“:

That’s bad for the Democratic Party and its candidates. It’s also bad for a body politic that requires more than the junk-food diet offered up by Donald Trump and most of his fellow contenders for the Republican presidential nod.

What is going on? Why are the Democrats hiding their presidential candidates and potentially sabotaging their 2016 election prospects?

Democrats should demand that the Democratic National Committee schedule several more debates and schedule them at times when most people can and will watch.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.