Author: Ron Eachus

Trump, NRA Go Low to Make America Great Again

If you thought Trump and Republican support for Alabama’s Roy Moore was about as low as the GOP could go, think again. It hasn’t gotten as much attention as the gun-toting, older-male-seeking-young-females Moore has, but the GOP prostration to the National Rifle Association and House passage of the NRA’s pet concealed carry bill took things down another notch. While Democrats in the House and Senate were asking their colleagues accused of sexual harassment and misconduct to resign, Trump and the Republican National Committee went all in on getting their own sexual misfit elected to the Senate. Moore’s extreme views and removal from two judgeships for defying Supreme Court orders would normally be the focus of a campaign against his fitness for office. But those blemishes have become background noise to the credible allegations of multiple women that he pursued them when they were teenagers and corroboration that he was barred from a shopping mall for behavior toward young girls. But after some initial holding back, Trump has endorsed Moore, making robo calls for him and pleading that “America can’t afford” a Moore loss because the “Make America Great Again’ agenda needs him.  The RNC followed by announcing it was transferring funds to Moore’s race. It just didn’t seem like they could go any lower, but they continued the trend when the House passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, 231-198,...

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Congress’s Own Scorekeepers Contradict GOP Tax Cut Boasts

The Trump-GOP claims about the impact and economic benefits of corporate and individual tax cuts they’re rushing through Congress are betrayed by the fibs, fudges and gimmicks employed to justify and pass them. There’s some egregious and troublesome tax changes in the House and Senate tax plans, but set aside arguments over the wisdom of individual changes and what emerges is a picture of purposeful manipulation to stay within the $1.5 trillion ten year deficit allowed in previously adopted budget parameters so their plan can pass the Senate with a Republican party line vote instead of the 60 votes that would otherwise be required to avoid a filibuster. They say it will be revenue neutral because the cuts will stimulate so much growth, costs will be offset. Yet the Joint Committee on Taxation Analysis of the House bill passed on November 16, and the pending Senate bill, estimates the resulting ten-year deficit will be about $1.4 trillion. The House bill barely stays within the $1.5 trillion limit because some middle class reductions expire in 2022 and it lowers inflation measures so lower incomes move from the proposed 12 percent bracket to the higher 25 percent bracket faster. The Senate bill stays under the limit because it makes the corporate tax reduction from 35 percent to 20 percent permanent but makes the cuts for households and individuals temporary. It also...

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Men’s Silence is Complicity With Culture of Sexual Harassment

Hey guys, (and by that I mean men), we need to talk!  It’s time for man-to-man conversations about our role in combating sexual harassment, abuse and predation. Time to think about and confront the reality that it is so pervasive in our culture because men in positions to do something about it become complicit by staying silent, cavalierly dismissing victim’s claims, or purposely sweeping them under the rug. Yes, men are sometimes victims. And sometimes they may be falsely accused. But let’s face it, sexual harassment and abuse results from the perpetrator taking advantage of power, be it economic, physical or psychological. And it happens that most perpetrators are men because it is men who primarily hold the power in our economy and culture. Sexual harassment isn’t just a women’s issue. It is a human issue. If we want to change the culture we have to become allies with the women it affects, not bystanders. If you are in a position to do something, your silence becomes an enabler. Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein got away with his sexual abuses because for decades his colleagues looked the other way. As filmmaker Quintin Tarantino lamented. “I knew enough to do more than I did.” Before the Weinstein revelations there was Bill O’Reilly, the hypocritical platitudinous general of the right’s Culture War to defend “Great American” values. In at least six different...

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Are they coming for you?

They’re coming for you. All who don’t buy into loyalty to Trump, his agenda, and his infallibility. Sound extreme and paranoid? It happens there’s a disturbing pattern that provides a clear window to the mentality of Trump and his followers’ urge to purge. The tactics to impugn and intimidate are varied. They will question your patriotism. They will threaten retribution. They may fire you. They may even invade your community with federal police.  The recent controversy over Trump’s call for NFL owners to fire players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and inequality is just a visible tip of a threat that goes much deeper. (Instead of firing players, owners locked arms or knelt in unison with their players during the national anthem in the next round of NFL games.) Civil servants have become a clear enemy to be feared as much as immigrants and Muslims. Not long after Trump’s rallying cry to fire football players for exercising their First Amendment rights, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told an advisory board composed of oil and gas executives that 30% of Interior Department employees were “not loyal to the flag” as he promised to make “huge” changes so he could relax regulations. In a disturbing move to establish a favorable political apparatchik, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) reintroduced legislation to classify all new federal hires as “at will”...

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Trump Addiction to Threats Requires Serious Intervention

Are you getting nervous? I admit I am. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says I should sleep well at night but when President Trump starts talking about unleashing fire and fury like the world has never seen if North Korea even utters another threat, I get nervous. It didn’t help that he doubled down on his comments the next day and then a few days later even spouted off about possible military action in Venezuela. It doesn’t help he sounds more like North Korea’s supreme leader every day. It doesn’t help knowing that his favorability ratings are in the low 30s, because there’s nothing like a war against an evil enemy to get people to rally around you and get your numbers up. It doesn’t help that Trump can act before Congress can intervene. It happens that when Trump, not known for being a good listener, gets boisterous and bellicose in what could evolve into nuclear confrontation, I get nervous that he’s oblivious to consequences and in need of serious intervention. So I imagine a version of the proverbial 3 a.m. phone call: “Hello! Do you know what time it is? Is this an emergency?” “It is. Donald, this is God. I needed to reach you before you started tweeting again this morning.” “Oh my god, God. I thought I might hear from you. I had 100 evangelical Christian...

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Trump, GOP Throwing Monkey Wrench in Health Care Markets

You know there’s trouble when Republican Senators say they’ll only vote for repeal of Obamacare if they’re assured it won’t actually happen. Trump and Congressional Republican leaders are now left with only their rhetoric. Trump still clings to it. “Let it fail,” he says of Obamacare. “The best thing politically is to let it explode,” he says with detonator in hand. It may be called Obamacare, but Trump’s using his broad authority over implementation to turn it into Trumpcare, hoping nobody notices health care is in his hands now. It happens that the only way for Trump to fulfill his own prophecy is to gum up the works. He is monkeywrenching Obamacare. In an April column I pointed out ways Trump and the GOP could sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Chief among them was elimination of the cost-share subsidies to insurance companies for low-income subscribers, roughly 60 percent of ACA policies. House Republicans argued in court that while the ACA authorized such payments, the funds still required specific Congressional appropriation, something the GOP Congress has withheld.  A federal district judge sided with them but allowed the payments to continue while the issue was appealed. Consequently, insurance companies have had to approach the 2018 market with uncertainty over the payments, and if there’s one thing markets don’t like it is uncertainty. Of course Congress could have eliminated the uncertainty by...

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Do We Have a Fourth-Grader as President?

Kids might actually start believing their parents when they’re told you could grow up to be president. After all, it happens that they now have a president who actually acts and talks like a fourth-grader. As far as I know, the “fourth-grader” appellation first appeared in summer of 2015 in an analysis of the level of the vocabulary in Trump’s campaign speeches. Subsequent academic analysis of grammar and readability of political speeches varied the level between third and sixth-grade levels. Trump clearly doesn’t like detail. His speeches rarely go beyond generalities where whatever he’d do was going to be “great,” “tremendous,” “historic,” “best ever” or , like health care, “beautiful.” In politics, simplified speech is often necessary to get a point across in a short period of time. And it can be an advantage for those seeking to be seen as a plainspoken alternative to verbose elites. But Trump has taken it to a lower level. I don’t take characterizing a president as a fourth-grader lightly. This is a powerful person who is the face of the country. Nor should we view the ascribed level of speech as an indicator of his intelligence. It is the simplistic, childish mentality that comes with it that’s so troubling. It isn’t the grammar or limited vocabulary we need worry about. It’s not that he talks like a fourth-grader. It’s that he acts...

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By letting them speak they expose themselves

It happens that the best way to combat those purveying ignorance and bigotry and trading in fear and alternative facts is to let them speak rather than trying to shut them up. It exposes them to the light of examination and ultimately holds them accountable for what they say and do. In troubled times we struggle with how much to tolerate from the other side, especially the extreme edges. We’ve seen recent attempts to force cancellation of speeches and rallies, or to not air programs like Megyn Kelly’s interview with right-wing conspiracy theorist and serial ranter Alex Jones. Protests, concerns over public safety, boycotts and withdrawal of financial support are legal and legitimate ways to counter speech and speakers with which one doesn’t agree.  But in the big picture, I say let them speak. They will become their own worst enemy. Their prejudice, lies and hypocrisies will be their own undoing if forced to face the vigilance of a more rational, reasoned world. When I started the University of Oregon in 1965 as a small-towner from Molalla, one of the first things I noticed was the Free Speech Platform on the student union terrace, there for anyone to use, at any time, to say what they wished to anyone, or no one. It had been gifted by the Class of ’62, after student government experienced first hand effects of...

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Trump’s Paris Withdrawal Leaves U.S. Alone and Behind

It happens that by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, instead of putting “America First” President Trump left American alone and behind. The U.S., as represented by Trump, is now an international pariah bent on denying science and going full throttle back to the glory days of the coal industry. The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, was a voluntary non-binding agreement in which each country set its own CO2 emissions targets to keep the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above what it was before the age of industrial production. The U.S. pledged to reduce emission between 26 to28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In withdrawing, Trump misrepresented the agreement to tailor it to his nationalism and job promises to the coal states. The fact checkers had a field day. Allegedly our sovereignty was at stake and it could expose the U.S. to “massive legal liability.” But it’s voluntary and non-binding. No foreign country has a say about what we do. We set our own targets. Accompanying text states clearly it doesn’t provide any basis for liability or compensation claims. The cited 6.5 million jobs lost by 2040 was based on a questionable study designed to produce extreme results by using hypothetical regulation models without considering lower cost options, increased jobs from clean energy sources, or benefits of reduced CO2 emissions. Trump said...

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Tired of Trump, Pence in 2018 May Be Necessity for GOP

It happens that those predictions I halfheartedly made to friends about how I wouldn’t be surprised to soon see Republicans wearing “Pence in 2018” buttons might not be too far off-base. After the election it wasn’t hard to imagine Republicans in Congress starting to see Vice-President Mike Pence as a more viable, credible and stable alternative to a scandal plagued, unpredictable, undisciplined, and ethically- challenged president and the self-inflicted chaos of his leadership. Their agenda and hold on power is more important to them than whether Trump or Pence is president. And Trump has managed, in less than six months, to put the real possibility of impeachment on the table. Ever since Nixon’s resignation Republicans have been looking for something to rise to the level of another Watergate they could pin on a Democratic president. Bill Clinton gave them ammunition but they missed. Now they may have found another Watergate. Only it’s with one of their own. They promised to spend the first years of a Hillary Clinton presidency investigating the same Bengazi and e-mail server issues they’d already investigated. Instead they are called upon to begin the Trump presidency by investigating campaign ties to Russia and obstruction of justice. By the time campaigning for the 2018 mid-term elections comes around, and that’s not too far off, Congressional Republicans might seriously tire of Trump. Fearing his negative impact on...

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House GOP Obamacare Replacement Hard to Explain, But…

It happens there are good reasons so many GOP House members avoided the press, and constituents, after narrowly passing their Obamacare replacement last week. It’s hard to reconcile with the promises. It’s not hard to imagine though what a conversation might be like should an informed constituent catch up to one of them: “Congressman, I have a pre-existing condition. The bill you passed is scary.” “Don’t worry. We made sure you’ll be taken care of.” “Well, I’ve done some research. If I have a lapse in coverage your bill allows insurers to charge me a 30% surcharge. If my state seeks a waiver, I could end up in an individual coverage high-risk pool with bigger premiums, and more limited coverage.  Plus now as I get older I can be charged five times more than a younger person.” “But we added money for the high-risk pools.” “Not enough from what I find. Most subsidy money you provide won’t go to high-risk pools and the $8 billion over five years you did add to get the needed votes is far from adequate according to most analysts.” “But high-risk pools existed before.” “Yes, 35 states, including Oregon, had them. But they were expensive and limited enrollment covered only a fraction of those who needed it. The Kaiser Family Foundation says one-fourth of adults under 65 have health conditions that made them uninsurable...

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May 16 School Board Elections are Way to Counter Trump

It happens that if you’re troubled about the Trump administration’s education agenda you shouldn’t overlook the Salem-Keizer School Board special election May 16. Trump is gutting the Department of Education and redirecting federal dollars from public schools to vouchers for private, religious or home schools. His Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a billionaire school choice advocate who never attended a public school, nor sent her own kids there. His budget cuts the Education Department by $9 billion, 13.5 percent, including funds for teacher training, aid to low-income and minority students, and after-school programs. But it increases funds for school choice to $1.4 billion, adding $250 million for use of private schools, including religious schools. With Trump’s aggressive deportation plans and anti-abortion zealotry, it’s not an agenda that helps an under-funded school district like Salem-Keizer with diverse population and high levels of low-income students. When the April 13-26 Salem Weekly editorial endorsed three school board candidates (physician Kathleen Harder, performance auditor Sheronne Blasi, and community center director Levi Herrera-Lopez) it convincingly described their qualifications and exposed the social conservative, Republican Party DNA of their chief opponents. Many might think it unfair for me to also throw in Trump and Devos. After all, it’s a non-partisan local race. No one is campaigning explicitly for or against their policies. But the underlying currents are there. Look deeper and it becomes more...

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Time for democrats to offer Obamacare fix

It happens that in the weeks since first approaching Salem Weekly about submitting current issues columns, the stumbling, fumbling attempt of House Republicans and the Trump Administration to replace Obamacare has faded into the background. Had the House bill passed this probably would have been about how terrible and inequitable it was. But it was yanked out of sight, so that raises the question of what Obamacare supporters should do next. Any glee over the bill’s failure, any satisfaction over unmasking of how it benefited the younger healthier, and wealthier over the older, sicker and poorer, ought be short-lived. Republicans are still seeking votes and Democrats can’t afford to confine themselves to just defending Obamacare while Trump and the GOP Congress are in position to sabotage it and  run against it again in 2018. It’s time Democrats countered by offering a plan showing how the Alternative Care Act can be fixed rather than be replaced by the draconian Republican alternative. A state agency analysis estimated the House replacement bill would mean an increase in uninsured in Oregon from five percent to 15 percent, create a $2.5 billion state budget hole and put 23,000 health care jobs at risk. The Oregon Center for Public Policy estimated nearly one million Oregonians would go uninsured or suffer higher costs and the state could lose up to 41.8 percent of federal funds for...

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