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Where's The Safety Net? Living Organ Donors Are People, Too

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-06-26 20:21
What ever happened to being honest and fair? Yes, people are dying who need organs, but living organ donors are people, too. Recent movements to encourage living organ donation are misdirected. What living organ donors need is a safety net. To encourage donation in the absence of such precautions boarders on immoral.

The White House is working on putting together a Summit on high tech means of encouraging living organ donation and Representative Matt Cartwright just introduced the Organ Donor Clarification Act of 2016 to allow funding for pilot projects on nonmonetary incentives for living organ donation. Both these efforts are misdirected. The first because we should not be encouraging donation in the absence of the most basic donor protections and the second because incentives that encourage donation in the absence of such protections is a recipe for disaster.

Donors need paid leave for the time they take off to donate and recover from surgery. With only 12 percent of the U.S. working population having paid family leave (White House Summit on Family Leave ) and almost half Americans not having enough savings to take care of a $400 expense (See here), how do we expect the average American to afford being a living organ donor?

Donor don't have to cover their own medical costs, but they do have to take time off for testing, the donation surgery, and a month to three month's of recovery. They also need a caregiver, who is often someone in the same household, to take time off to be at the hospital with the donor and stay with the donor for the first week or so after returning home. And what if there are travel and lodging expense for the donor and caregiver? What about other potential costs such as childcare, home-care, or pet-sitting? All these things can add up to $10,000 or more that the donor has to "donate" on top of donating an organ. And what if the donor has complications -- ven rather mild complications like an infection can mean added weeks off work?

If a donor has complications, the organ recipient's insurance may cover the costs of treating that complication. There may be a debate over whether the complication is related to the donation or the time period for covering donor complications may have passed. Some recipient's go back to work and drop their Medicare coverage, leaving their donor without coverage. A recent article published on the Doctor's Lounge blog states that a shocking 16 percent of living organ donors don't have health insurance so if the recipient's insurance doesn't pay, the donor is stuck with the bill.

Complications are also not limited to physical complications or even the financial complications discussed above. During an online seminar for living organ donor advocates, the speaker shared that her preliminary data indicated that close to 30 percent of living organ donors experience post-donation depression (See here).

It is doubtful that a donor's request for counseling would be covered by an organ recipient's insurance. Sometimes transplant centers offer post-donation counseling, but the donors I've spoken to say the transplant center is the last place they want to go for such counseling since often their unhappiness stems from how the Center treated them. Or, they fear their recipient will find out, and they don't want to put a damper on the recipient's joy at having received a much needed organ.

For two years now I've been an independent living organ donor advocate who assists donors after their donation, and I've been shocked by how many donors feel abandoned. There are programs that help donors make it to the point of donation, but few that help them after they have donated. Donors need comprehensive medical coverage, coverage for lost wages, and coverage for psychological counseling, job security and much more. While there are some efforts underway, such as the Living Organ Donor Protection Act, that will bring donors under the umbrella of the the Family and Medical Leave Act, such protections, and the others I've mentioned, should be in place before any efforts are made to encourage the general public to become living organ donors. To launch incentive studies and media campaigns before a proper safety net is in place could be courting disaster. Just imagine dozens, if not hundreds, of angry and frustrated living organ donors sharing with friends, acquaintances, and the media how they faced financial and psychological complications they were never told were possible.

Consider Lou Ann, a social worker who thought donating a kidney would be a nice thing to do while she was between jobs. Lou Ann was enthusiastic about saving a life and still is glad she did, but she is also extremely disappointed with how she was treated post donation. Lou Ann told me:"I hate to put it so bluntly, but the truth is they tore out my kidney and then threw me in the trash." Lou Ann has good reason to feel abandoned, as do other donors.

If she had received immediate medical attention when she developed complications, perhaps her medical and financial troubles would not have snowballed into a nightmare she is still trying to escape. Within a year of donating, Lou Ann was jobless, homeless, and nearly $400,000 in debt. The transplant center where she donated a kidney is not returning her calls.

Lou Ann is not alone. We know that approximately 10% of living organ donors suffer complications (see p.15 at here). As a volunteer for the American Living Organ Donor Network, I receive calls and emails almost every day from living organ donors who need help with post donation expenses -- mostly lost wages and medical expenses not covered by the organ recipient's insurance.

We need to think this problem through carefully. It doesn't really matter how many donors like Lou Ann there are. No one who has sacrificed to save a life should be abandoned by society. Whether through private charities or a government program, it would be a mistake not to make sure there is a safety net in place before we start encouraging Americans to take the risks -- both medical and financial -- associated with living organ donation.

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The RNC Plans To Turn Bernie Backers Against Hillary Clinton’s VP Pick

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-06-26 20:00

The Republican National Committee is planning to cleave liberal voters away from Hillary Clinton as part of a campaign to counteract her forthcoming pick of a vice presidential running mate.

In a detailed memo outlining its strategy to combat Clinton's VP choice, the committee says it will frame the selection as both a cynical play to certain constituencies and as an emotional letdown for voters who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic primary.

The goals, the memo says, are to "drive wedges between these top contenders and either Clinton and/or traditional Democrat constituencies, such as labor, environmentalists, and gun control advocates, and other traditional left-wing constituencies;" and "[w]here applicable, frame the choice as an insult to the large, deep base of Bernie Sanders supporters who are struggling with the notion of supporting Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democrat nominee."

Titled "Project Pander," the RNC's strategy memo also reveals which candidates the committee views as most likely to be selected. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), HUD Secretary Julian Castro and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) occupy the top tier; Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) are in the second.

Authored by Raj Shah, the research director and deputy communications director at the RNC, the memo telegraphs a campaign of subterfuge that is traditionally executed in private. Parties normally don't like their fingerprints on the attacks against the opposition. But this has been an untraditional election, with both sides relatively unapologetic about the mud they are slinging. 

Sean Spicer, the RNC's communications director and chief strategist, said that the committee already has conducted extensive field research in San Antonio, Boston and Richmond, Virginia (homes to Castro, Warren and Kaine, respectively) in addition to investigative work on all six potential choices.

"We've audited previous research efforts from allied folks, ID-ed relevant video and historical paper archives," Spicer said. He added that the committee had filed more than 20 freedom of information requests at the local, state and federal level on these potential VP choices and was ready to deploy operatives for further dirt-digging within 12 hours of an announcement.

Clinton's campaign was unperturbed by the RNC's operations, a spokesman said in an email. Nor were they worried about a fissure happening within the party, noting that recent opinion polls show Democratic voters coalescing more quickly around Clinton than Republican voters around their party's presumptive nominee: Donald Trump.  

"We aren't concerned," said spokesman Brian Fallon. "While the Democratic party is quickly uniting around Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump actually appears to be losing ground in his bid to consolidate Republicans. More and more members of Trump's own party are realizing he is temperamentally unfit to be President, and there is no amount of Googling by RNC researchers that can fix that." 

Though the RNC's research efforts underscore the high stakes of Clinton's choice of running mate, the actual value of a vice presidential pick tends to be overstated. Data shows that the selection rarely helps win a state's electoral votes, though it can marginally improve voter perceptions of a ticket. A pick can, however, create its share of headaches, either by providing damaging distractions (see: Eagleton, Thomas or Palin, Sarah) or by underwhelming voters (Lieberman, Joe or Quayle, Dan).

The RNC's overarching goal is to duplicate, in one form or another, such a letdown.

With respect to Kaine, the committee's plan of attack will be to paint him as a "career politician" whose positions on trade and  abortion makes him unpalatable for supporters of Sanders. (Without irony, the RNC's memo also says they will portray a Clinton/Kaine ticket as too liberal for the electorate because of Kaine's support for Obamacare and his time as a lawyer for the ACLU).

For Castro, the committee will argue that he is woefully inexperienced and that the limited record he has is a disappointment to liberals: from supporting NAFTA to pushing, while mayor of San Antonio, to get a Connecticut-based gun manufacturer to move its headquarters to the city.

"Castro could easily be portrayed as a John Edwards-esque pick," the memo reads, "whereby someone with good looks but a thin resume is viewed as a novice on the national stage."

A Warren choice, the RNC concedes, would go over well with Sanders supporters. But it would be "an extreme lurch left" that the committee would paint as "intensely liberal and uncompromising." Interestingly, the RNC hints that it would use the selection of Warren as a means of diminishing Clinton, both by playing up Warren as, in some ways, the more powerful of the two and by portraying Clinton as captive to her base.

"A Clinton-Warren ticket reeks of insincerity," the memo reads.

(For a complete rundown on the RNC's forthcoming lines of attacks, you can read the full memo here.)

Many of the individual attacks that the RNC plans to level at potential VP picks have been used before. Kaine, for instance, took heat from liberals for his stance on abortion when he was named chair of the Democratic National Committee; Warren endured charges that she exaggerated her Native American heritage while running for Senate in Massachusetts.

The presidential campaign, however, is a much larger stage and it comes with much deeper scrutiny. The RNC's gambit is that Donald Trump's unique appeal to working-class white voters -- including many who backed Sanders' candidacy -- also represents a potential pitfall for Clinton as she rounds out her ticket.

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About That Woman VP Candidate: Klobuchar Works Better Than Warren

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-06-26 19:47
With Bernie Sanders Vanquished, Hillary Clinton Turns to Veepstakes; People breaks down some of the most buzzed-about candidates. How about Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota's senior U.S. senator, for VP, People asks.

How about Klobuchar?

I have been watching Klobuchar's rise to political power for 20 years. I, like many others, think she wants to be POTUS. Clearly, attaining the vice-presidential slot in 2016 puts her first-in-line among Democrats to make her own presidential run, (whether or not Hillary Clinton wins).

Klobuchar has demurred at every turn about any office other than the one she's got. But, that's what one does when in her shoes. Besides, Klobuchar knows what People knows and shared with us: she makes a compelling case without saying a word.

People illustrates the strength of Klobuchar's case by way of pointing-out the liabilities of others on Clinton's supposed short list.

As far as the guys go, People wrote. HUD Secretary Julian Castro may be too young. Mark Cuban: are they kidding; was that to boost magazine sales? Picking Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown costs a Democratic Senate seat because Republican Governor John Kasich would pick Brown's replacement (whereas Minnesota's Democratic Governor Mark Dayton would likely pick another Democrat to replace Klobuchar). Labor Secretary Tom Perez has no foreign policy experience. Virginia Senator Timothy Keane "is a white male with 'senator' before his name; [he] does not bring much 'wow' factor."

People also writes about Elizabeth Warren who, when the chips were down in Hillary Clinton's campaign to beat Bernie Sanders, declined to support her sister Senator. It makes you wonder: with sisters like that...Of course, Warren had the right to bide her time, but that's not what friends are, much less what intimates are, as Clinton says she wants her vice-president to be. Knowing Warren's failure to support her in this tough fight, when all the other Democratic women senators did, why would Hillary Clinton pick Warren? In my judgement, she wouldn't. She, of all people, understands the importance and value of loyalty.

Anyway, what does the likely first woman POTUS need, besides what she's already got? She needs a partner she can never doubt is working only for her.

Warren is also further to the left than some voters whose votes Clinton would like to have. And, like the Sherrod Brown selection, selecting Warren might mean a Senate seat pick-up for the Republicans.

By contrast, I don't see a downside to a Klobuchar pick. She is "a longtime Clinton supporter," who has it all:

  • The educational pedigree Americans often favor in their presidents. (Yup, that Ivy League education.)

  • Midwestern and middle class roots.

  • An unblemished career and personal story.

  • A values and family-driven presence.

  • A two-term Senate record replete with legislative successes for women and families, across a wide spectrum of issues, from children's toys to picking Supreme Court justices.

  • An unbeaten political track record.

Nor is Klobuchar visibly combative, which voters find troublesome in women candidates. (I'm not speaking to the merits here, but to the practical facts.). Why, she's Minnesota Nice, as we used to say on my Northfield, Minnesota college campus.

Klobuchar is an American classic in just so many ways. A couple minutes reading her Twitter feed, and I promise you'll get that feeling, too.

But, you ask: what about getting those 270 Electoral College votes? Can Klobuchar help get them for Clinton? Yes, she can.

Conventional Wisdom says the Electoral College map tilts Democratic anyway. In that case, why not pick a friend?

Conventional Wisdom says that, in addition to Florida, the Rust Belt states with big Electoral College numbers, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, will provide the margin of victory.

So, take Michigan: Debbie Stabenow, its senior U.S. Senator, will fight like the dickens for Clinton and Klobuchar. She and Klobuchar are close friends and have supported Clinton since the git-go. Stabenow appreciates loyalty as much as Hillary Clinton does. And, Stabenow understands and appreciates Minnesota Nice. It's just a version of her state's Michigan Nice.

So, take Ohio and Pennsylvania and their dying mining towns, just for starters. Klobuchar's family hails from mining country. Who better to woo women voters, the majority of those states' Democratic voters, than a woman who can connect with them and their families?

Now, throw in Minnesota and Wisconsin, each with ten Electoral College votes. (Virginia, land of Tim Keane, has 13.) Now, you've got your 270. Now, you've got Hillary Clinton in the White House and Amy Klobuchar at Number One Observatory Circle.

But, just in case: Conventional Wisdom also says that the Clinton campaign is running a 50-state race. In that context, the 11 (minus Klobuchar, Stabenow and Warren) other Democratic U.S. women senators, who joined hands with Stabenow and Klobuchar to stand with Clinton, will fight hard and go everywhere for these two girlfriends.

I admire and appreciate Elizabeth Warren's constant advocacy for fairness and justice. And, I'm glad she endorsed Hillary Clinton. But, in these frighteningly uncertain times, I think voters would prefer a vice-presidential candidate who is the presidential candidate's friend of long-standing, a comforting presence, besides being committed to justice, smart and forceful. Amy Klobuchar fits that whole bill.

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Homeless Health Care: Time to Close an Open Wound

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-06-26 19:11

Last week saw the federal conviction of a man who diverted $12.7 million from a federally funded Health Care for the Homeless program in Birmingham, Alabama (Birmingham Health Care, BHC) to his own private businesses. Over 500,000 Americans are homeless each night. Studies show that people experiencing homelessness are increasingly older, sicker, and more likely to die than others their age. Today, 297 Health Care for the Homeless programs operate, many doing excellent work.

Whether all 297 programs consistently serve their vulnerable target population, however, is a different question. A decade of observation and the outcome of the Birmingham trial reveal that federal safeguards to protect this mission are insufficient.

As shown at trial, Mr. Jonathan Dunning set up an array of private companies beginning in 2006, during his time as BHC's CEO, and in the years that followed when, employees attest, he retained operational authority.

Through a series of real estate and service contracts, many of which were sweetheart deals, his companies extracted $12.7 million while the health center was progressively crippled, unable to pay its bills or purchase basic supplies, facts accepted by his counsel at trial. A year ago, the health center's former Chief Financial Officer pled guilty to assisting in these financial shenanigans. Last week, a federal jury found him guilty on 98 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

The most painful question raised by this story, however, is not how to prevent criminality, but how to assure that crucial medical services reach the most vulnerable in society, because legal attention came far too late.

That this health center was failing to advance optimally its Congressionally mandated objective of serving the homeless had been obvious for a decade before Mr. Dunning's trial. As a part-time doctor there (2002-2008), I saw systemic failures that often left patients without care. After unsuccessfully seeking remediation by management, I published two papers showing just how bad the problems had become.

The first, a survey of Birmingham's homeless, showed that the percentage reporting inability to obtain health care rose from 32% to 54% between 1995 and 2005, even though the local homeless population had not grown. A second study found that 15% of homeless persons seeking care at BHC could not get it there. Accordingly, the local newspaper described BHC as the least accessible place for homeless persons in town, precisely the opposite of what Congress intended when it established the Health Care for the Homeless Program in 1987.

In surveys, homeless persons seeking care at BHC described burdensome demands for payment that they could not afford, written referrals that they could not produce, and long waits in a basement for eligibility evaluations that they could not endure. Our third (as-yet unpublished) survey from 2013 showed the situation had worsened. Having found local program leadership to be unresponsive, I had hoped that my reports and editorials would compel public action, and they were conveyed to appropriate officials.

No federal attention came, however, until someone knowledgeable (I don't know who) dropped a dime about Mr. Dunning's business deals, many of which emerged in the local press, and at trial.

How is it that a federally funded homeless health program could become progressively less available to the very population it was directed to serve, with no response for nearly a decade? Should we hope that the prosecution of a few malefactors will prevent similar failures?

Sadly, the answer is no. A piece of legislative history, dating to 1996, helps to explain the Birmingham mishap and why the risk for repeated failures is national in scope. The Health Centers Consolidation Act of 1996 combined four separate community health center programs, each of which had unique traditions (some formalized in regulation, some not) for their respective populations.

One of those programs was the Health Care for the Homeless Program, descendant of a 1985 private initiative where caregivers took to streets and shelters to deliver care for the newly-prominent homeless population.

The 1996 Act applied generic requirements to all health centers, regardless of population served. It had no requirements specific to homelessness, save that there be "substance abuse services." In simple terms, Health Care for the Homeless programs have to document a number of "contacts" with patients who get in the door. Whether they take any steps to optimize accessibility for their target population remains entirely optional.

The insuffiicency of federal safeguards in Birmingham doesn't necessarily imply widespread failure of this national program. I know many providers who show extraordinary commitment, and who go the extra mile for a stigmatized and disabled population. Research (including my own) has helped to show how homeless health programs can design their services to be maximally effective. A 4-year old initiative of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (where I work) established 60 homeless primary care clinics emphasizing easy access, specialized staff, resources for clothing and food, and integration with social services. These efforts embody a major federal push to deliver population-focused care addressing both health and the social conditions that drive bad health.

Now is the time for federal funders to require the accountability to homeless patients that the best programs already achieve. The Birmingham story, combining disservice to patients with venal financial behavior, remains, to my knowledge, unique. But experts in homeless health care privately tell me they have seen more than a few recipients of homeless health care grants offer little for homeless clients, while keeping their federal funds.

The end of this trial will not correct the failures that left homeless persons without reliable care in Birmingham. Federal funders, however, have the regulatory authority to demand that any agency funded for homeless health care demonstrate that they are offering the kinds of services that good programs insist on providing: outreach, assistance with social needs, tangible efforts to minimize stigmatization, and openness to walk-in care. Regulators should use that authority and, if necessary, demand support for enforcement from Congress. Taking these long-neglected actions could put a legendary program back on the path to excellence and begin to heal a public wound that hurt so many people in Birmingham for so long.

Stefan Kertesz is a primary care physician and homeless health researcher at Birmingham VA Medical Center and University of Alabama at Birmingham. Follow him on Twitter @StefanKertesz. Views expressed are his own, and do not represent positions of the State of Alabama or the United States Federal Government.

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Donald Trump Would Push Debt To Highest Level In U.S. History, Report Says

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-06-26 19:00

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Donald Trump’s policy agenda would quickly push the national debt to its highest level in history, according to a new report.

The analysis, which the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget published Sunday evening, represents one of the first serious efforts to assess how electing Trump or his chief rival for the presidency, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, might affect federal finances over time.

Rather than focusing on individual policy initiatives -- like Trump’s call to abolish the estate tax, or Clinton’s pledge to help working parents pay for child care -- this new analysis takes into account all of the candidates' proposals to date, in order to assess how they would alter the federal budget and, ultimately, the amount of debt that the public holds.

It was not an easy task for the committee’s researchers, because Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, barely talks about policy. When he does, he's frequently vague or inconsistent. But the few proposals that Trump has actually described publicly made it possible to construct a rough analysis and compare his agenda with the more detailed proposals from Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

The resulting contrast was stark. As the report demonstrates, the election doesn’t simply present Americans with a choice between a politician who disparages entire ethnic and religious groups and a politician who preaches the virtues of diversity. It also offers a choice between a candidate who'd create vast new deficits for the sake of some highly questionable tax cuts -- and one proposing a more modest agenda of expanded government programs, with added revenue that would cover nearly all of their cost.

The centerpiece of Trump’s agenda is a series of proposed tax cuts, including new breaks for businesses and reductions in individual rates, that past studies have shown would disproportionately benefit wealthy Americans. The committee’s researchers, working from estimates by the (also nonpartisan) Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, determined that, taken together, the tax cuts would add something like $9.25 trillion in new debt over the next 10 years. (For these and other projections, committee researchers produced three separate estimates to generate a range of possibilities and then used the one in the middle for their main analysis.)

Other items on Trump’s agenda, including his promises to overhaul veteran services and repeal the Affordable Care Act, would add a few hundred billion dollars to that total. With no significant new revenues or spending cuts to offset these costs, and with the higher interest payments that so much new borrowing would require, the cumulative impact of Trump’s agenda would probably be around $11.5 trillion in additional federal debt over 10 years, the committee’s researchers found.

The number itself doesn’t mean a whole lot. The U.S. has carried significant debt going all the way back to the 1790s -- when, at the urging of Alexander Hamilton, the fledgling federal government assumed liabilities that the states had incurred during the American Revolution and its aftermath.

What matters, instead, is the size of the debt relative to the rest of the economy, measured as Gross Domestic Product. That figure indicates how many resources society must divert from current priorities, like education or defense or retirement programs, in order to pay for past borrowing.

And it’s debt-to-GDP ratio where the impact of Trump’s agenda may be most arresting. According to the committee’s researchers, Trump’s agenda, if enacted, would push the ratio of federal debt to GDP from its current level of 75 percent all the way up to 127 percent.

The previous peak was around 110 percent, and that was during the 1940s -- when the necessities of fighting a world war called for unusually large borrowing. Trump has yet to explain why his agenda would justify so much additional debt.

Of course, Clinton would also add liabilities to the federal ledger. Specifically, she has proposed an array of new programs, including tax credits to offset out-of-pocket medical costs and new federal assistance with college tuition, that would significantly expand the size and scope of the federal government. All told, according to the committee’s analysis, Clinton’s agenda would have the federal government laying out an additional $1.4 trillion in new spending over the next decade.

But the amount of federal money Clinton would commit to these new programs is just a fraction of the amount of federal money that Trump would dump into his tax cuts. Many of Clinton's proposals, including the ones that focus on early childhood, hold out the promise of much greater economic returns in the future. Last but not least, Clinton has actually called for raising taxes on the wealthy -- and has identified enough specific increases to raise $1.25 trillion in revenue and offset most of her new spending initiatives.

As a result, the committee’s analysis finds, Clinton’s agenda would place the ratio of debt-to-GDP at around 87 percent by 2026. This is more or less where that ratio is headed anyway: If current policy stays exactly the same, the debt-to-GDP ratio would reach about 86 percent by 2026, projections suggest.

The committee’s report was careful to point out that at 87 percent, the debt-to-GDP ratio after 10 years would still be higher than its present level of 75 percent. That’s a big problem, the committee says, given that an aging population is likely to push the cost of government services, particularly health care programs, much higher in the future.

Current projections suggest that if the government's fiscal trajectory does not change, debt-to-GDP ratio could exceed 130 percent by 2040 -- a level that would also be well above the previous historic peak.

“To date,” the report says, “neither former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nor businessman Donald Trump has put forward a plan to address the national debt.”

But fiscal projections beyond the immediate future are notoriously unreliable, and mainstream economists disagree over precisely what constitutes an ideal debt-to-GDP ratio, or whether an ideal ratio even exists. A lot depends on how much of the debt is financing current needs, rather than investments that will (hopefully) yield a more productive economy in the future.

Meanwhile, the report makes clear which of the two major candidates would require vast new borrowing and which one wouldn't. “Mr. Trump’s proposals would massively increase the debt,” the report says.

On that, there isn't much debate among mainstream experts.

“The difference between [Clinton and Trump] is indeed stark,” Henry Aaron, a widely respected Brookings economist who did not work on the committee’s analysis, told The Huffington Post Sunday. “One candidate shows determination to, at least, keep debt under control. The other is utterly indifferent to it."

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Politics Won't Stop Terrorism Or Gun Violence

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-06-26 18:53
This country is still reeling from the single largest mass murder since 9/11. We grieve with our gay brothers and sisters who were slaughtered by an evil person who wanted to cause as much death and destruction as possible. When our way of life is attacked, we as a country should come together, but as I look on my social media feeds, after this attack, people are dividing into one of two distinct camps.

My liberal friends are outraged about this senseless act and want stricter gun control laws. They are thoughtful in their analysis and reluctant to attribute any religious motivation to this act. My conservative followers are equally outraged and passionate about their concern of radical Islamic extremists, but are reluctant to address restricting gun ownership rights and increased gun control. I don't know what the right answer to this problem is, but we as a country need to have a real conversation about both issues.

It is a sad reality that a bad guy with a gun, a bomb or a plane can end my life or the life of my fellow citizens. I don't care what race or religion they follow, but people like this are a threat that must be stopped. In today's America we now have to worry about not only criminals but terrorists, which many people seem reluctant to talk about. Let's not pretend terrorism and radical Islamic extremism played no role in the Orlando nightclub shooting. We can be sure of this because the killer called the police during the attack to attribute his motivations directly to ISIS. I'm going to take him at his word. Even if the early reports of him being a conflicted gay man turn out to be true, how many men who are conflicted about their sexuality go out and kill numerous people and claim their actions were motivated by terrorist groups?

The inability to have a comprehensive conversation about both guns and radical Islamic extremism is leaving us all less safe and more likely for these types of events to continue to happen in the future. There is a valid concern that if we are not thoughtful in our remarks on the issue of terrorism that we could unfairly demonize an entire religion. While I agree that is a concern, it does not change the fact that the conversation needs to occur. One of the ways that we can make sure the dialogue is productive is by having Muslims at the table for these discussions and to address any threats they may receive or concerns they may have.

I believe that most people of good will are not going to unfairly judge an entire religion or group of people based upon the horrible actions of a few violent extremists, but people are afraid and not having a national conversation for people to have their questions and concerns addressed is doing us all a disservice. We need to hear from our leaders about the actions they are taking to keep us safe and address the impact extremists are even having on other Muslims that are being terrorized and killed. The answer is not to just tell us we shouldn't be worried. While we shouldn't make policy based upon the fear of our citizenry, people who are ignorant about a topic will continue to be fearful. We have an opportunity to open a dialogue that can expand understanding and work toward a more peaceful country.

Although it's unfair and wrong for the government to negatively brand an entire community because of the actions of a minority, let's be honest; we've been practicing that form of profiling for centuries. How many cities have stop and frisk policies that almost exclusively target young African-American men for mostly non-violent drug crimes? But we bristle at the suggestion that we restrict people who have not been vetted from crossing our boarders or who have overstayed their visas, which can and has led to terrorists running around with no restrictions? I am not suggesting a Muslim ban because not only do I believe it would be ineffective, it's a violation of civil rights and goes against fundamental American values.

That being said, please forgive my confusion that we have individuals in this country who may have ties to terrorism and have been questioned multiple times by the FBI but there are no restrictions on their ability to get guns and security clearances. When one of these individuals does commit an act of terrorism we pretend that they are just your average criminal who snapped over his conflicted sexuality to commit mass murderer. The coward (his name doesn't deserve to be repeated) that committed this horrific act isn't just some disturbed person with serious mental health issues, a gang member or drug dealer. This terrorist and those like him are part of a larger criminal conspiracy tied together by a radicalized religious ideology that wants to kill as many of us as they can in order to fundamentally change our culture. It doesn't make me a bigot or xenophobe to say that I have concerns that people allied to terrorist groups are committing atrocities in our workplaces, military bases and night clubs. I don't hate black and brown people, after all I'm a black American, but that won't stop a terrorist from killing me if given the opportunity.

I am also concerned about gun violence. Not only when it happens in mass shootings, but I also care about the thousands of people each year who are killed by urban gun violence on a daily basis. I want comprehensive background checks for all gun sales and I am open to serious discussions about increasing restrictions on certain types of guns, but I do have a concern that African-American men will end up being disproportionately impacted in the enforcement of new and increased gun control rules. The addition of any new criminal legislation makes me wonder if in a few years we are going to try to undo these regulations like we are trying to undo stiffer sentences for black men on drug charges. It's a mistake of epic proportions to not consider the unintended consequences of increased gun regulation, or any regulation for that matter. That is not to say that, after considering the repercussions, we don't do it, but I want to make sure that these issues of disparate impact are discussed.

I was in law school when 9/11 changed America forever. We may never feel as safe in this country as we did on September 10th 2001, before we were attacked. Before that day, terrorism was something that happened in other places, less safe places. Of course it was naïve to believe that we would be untouched by those things, but as the world's lone super power we expect to feel safe in our own country and that we will have determined leaders that will take every step within the law to ensure our safety. Rightly or wrongly too many of us accept urban gun violence as a fact of life for certain communities, but find terrorism unacceptable because it could happen to any of us. Terrorism does not discriminate based upon you neighborhood, race, social economic status, religion or sexual orientation but for some communities the threat of gun violence is just as real and happens on a daily basis.

We must resist the temptation to automatically drift to our respective political corners. The safety of our fellow citizens, even our entire country, is depending on us being honest. Honest with ourselves and those who agree with us, but also those that we disagree with. The red and blue labels we have been programmed to think define us are doing nothing but causing us to be less safe. It's time to put politics aside, stop the threat of extremist terrorism and at the same time limit the availability of weapons to those that shouldn't possess them.

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At Least 7 Hurt In California Stabbings As Neo-Nazis, Protesters Clash

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-06-26 18:07

At least seven people were injured in stabbings Sunday when neo-Nazi demonstrators and counter-protesters clashed outside the capitol building in Sacramento, California. 

The Sacramento Fire Department described the situation as a "mass casualty event" -- meaning at least five people were injured. Calls about the incident came in just before noon local time, according to Public Information Officer Chris Harvey. 

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The seven stabbing victims were taken to local hospitals, some with critical injuries, Harvey said. Ages and genders of the injured were not immediately available.

Harvey said law enforcement and counter-protesters were anticipating a planned march by a local affiliate of The Traditionalist Worker Party. Officials describe TWP as a neo-Nazi group. 

California Highway Patrol officers, mounted police and officers in riot gear were dispatched to the event where, Harvey said, "almost immediately a large fight started, and smaller incidents spun off of that."

Insane video. Crowd sees any signs of "Nazis" and they run&attack. A lot of people bleeding/getting maced. @ABC10 pic.twitter.com/PoFhILfZ95

— Frances Wang (@ABC10Frances) June 26, 2016

The counter-protesters included various unrelated groups like "ultra-leftist" groups, anti-fascist groups and Black Lives Matter, Harvey said, citing reports from law enforcement. But Tanya Faison, a member of Black Lives Matter of Sacramento, said the group's members did not participate in the protest.

"None of us were out there," Faison said. "We won’t put ourselves in that type of trauma."

A TWP organizer, who was not at the event, told the Los Angeles Times that most of the injured were counter-protesters. “They got one of us but we got six of them,” the organizer told the paper.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups, described the TWP as a newly formed offshoot of the white nationalist American Freedom Party

Among the goals of the TWP listed on its website are the preservation of European-American identity and opposition to "economic exploitation, federal tyranny, and anti-Christian degeneracy." 

This article has been updated with comment from Black Lives Matter of Sacramento and information on those injured.

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Trump Supporters Reveal Exactly What He'd Have To Do To Lose Their Votes

Huffingon Post Politics - Sun, 2016-06-26 03:40

Jimmy Kimmel asked Trump supporters what The Donald would have to do to lose their votes. And as it turns out, it's quite a bit.

For some of his followers, not even murder, smoking crack or punching the Pope would be enough to make them step off the Trump Train.

"It doesn't matter if Donald Trump embellished his relationship with Ronald Reagan, his supporters don't care," said the host of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Claiming Trump voters were "passionate to the point" that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee could say or do absolutely anything and they'd still stick with him, Kimmel decided to test his hypothesis out.

He sent a reporter out onto the street to ask Trump supporters what it would take for the real estate magnate to lose their vote. 

Warning; some of their answers may alarm you.

Check out their responses in the clip above.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Sunday Roundup

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 22:54
This week, as Britain broke with the EU, some in the U.S. media broke with reality by continuing to normalize the unreal candidacy of Donald Trump. After a speech on Wednesday focusing on economics and attacks on Hillary Clinton, many pundits gave Trump the gift of analyzing the speech as if it had been delivered by someone other than the most dangerous and unstable nominee in modern history. "That's called the pivot," said Joe Scarborough, while Mark Halperin allowed that "the themes Trump chose... were well chosen," the speech "decently written," and that Trump is "better on prompter." In other words, focusing on weeds in a forest of demonstrable lies: the U.S., for example, is not "the highest taxed nation in the world." As noted by Politifact, which has debunked this claim three times, the U.S. is "nowhere near the top." Meanwhile, Democrats broke with House rules and staged a sit-in on the House floor to demand votes on gun control legislation. The effort was labeled a "publicity stunt," by Paul Ryan -- a break from irony from a man who endorsed Donald Trump.

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OMG, Nigel Farage Looks And Laughs Like Vizzini From 'Princess Bride'

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 19:28

Watching the news about Britain exiting the European Union this week, it was impossible not to see the face of UK Independent Party leader Nigel Farage. He was one of the main proponents of the Brexit movement and clearly took great joy in the poll results.

I couldn't quite put my finger on it initially, but something looked so familiar about him. Something... inconceivable. My god, that's it.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage is Vizzini from "The Princess Bride."





You're welcome, and also, I'm sorry.

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After Brexit, French Politicians Want English Language Out Of EU Too

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 18:26

Is the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union going to deal a fatal blow to the language of Shakespeare on the continent? English, one of the 24 official languages of the EU, is very much spoken in Brussels and in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. But according to certain leading French politicians, its status after Brexit should be questioned.

On Friday morning, the mayor of the southern French town of Béziers, Robert Ménard -- a man with close ties to the National Front -- reckoned that English no longer had "any legitimacy" in Brussels.

La langue anglaise n'a plus aucune légitimité à Bruxelles. #Brexit

— Robert Ménard (@RobertMenardFR) June 24, 2016

Left-wing presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who supports moving away from European treaties, has, for his part, said that English can no longer be "the third working language" of the European Parliament.

L'anglais ne peut plus être la troisième langue de travail du parlement européen #Brexit

— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) June 24, 2016

In various ways, they're both wrong. The very complex operation of multilingualism in European institutions doesn't rely on the single criterion of a member state's membership in -- or withdrawal from -- the EU.

The EU's official languages are communicative languages recognized by the institutions. At the inception of the European structure, during the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, there were four: French, German, Italian and Dutch. Today there are 24 of these official languages, including Bulgarian, Danish, Croatian and, obviously, English. In the European Parliament, all documents and discussions must be translated simultaneously into the 24 languages.

The official language of a member state doesn't automatically become an official language of the EU (as is notably the case with Luxembourgish). This recognition happens at the request of the state. If a state withdraws, its language might also be withdrawn, even if a case for it was never made.

Nevertheless, Great Britain's exit should not be enough to abolish the use of English in Brussels, contrary to what Robert Ménard thinks. That is quite simply because the English language is one of the official languages of Ireland and Malta, who are still members of the EU.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon's proposal is subtler because the European MP is targeting English not in its capacity as an official language, but as a working language. To enable the fluidity of exchanges within the EU, certain discussions led by certain institutions happen in a limited number of languages. Contrary to what the presidential candidate asserts, this isn't the case during sessions of the European Parliament (except for press conferences). The European Commission, however, does have three official working languages: French, German and English.

This linguistic choice is clearly tied to member states' influence, but it also follows practical concerns and historical traditions. Deliberation in the European Union Court of Justice takes place in French, as do the majority of discussions do in the European Court of Auditors.

So although the U.K. doesn't use the euro and has preserved its monetary sovereignty, the European Central Bank has, since its creation, always and exclusively used the English language. And this is not for London's sake, but for the sake of not complicating its extremely sensitive communication by multiplying the channels of translation.

This article first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and adapted for an American audience.

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Britain's Vote To Leave

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 18:09
The British people have voted to leave the European Union. It was not by an overwhelming majority at 52 percent, but it couldn't have been imagined 10 years ago. We have been seeing this fragmentation throughout Europe, but we now have the first case of a nation deciding to leave. I doubt that it will be the last. But as the first, we should try to understand clearly why the British voted as they did. We should also be thankful that we will never hear the word Brexit again. I really hated that term.

The issue is what prompted this outpouring of votes to leave. There were three reasons, in my view, that drove it.


The first was simple. Supporters of remaining in the EU made the case that there would be substantial economic costs. Opponents of the EU noted the obvious, which is that the EU is a dysfunctional economic entity that has been unable to address the economic problems that have developed since 2008. It has not addressed the condition of southern Europe, where unemployment has remained at more than 20 percent for years, nor the high unemployment in France. The profound difference between the lives of southern Europeans, including the middle class, and Germans, who enjoy 4.2 percent unemployment, is profound. Europe as a whole has stagnated economically.

The argument for remaining in the EU was that the alternative was economic disaster. It made little sense to the opponents of membership to try to solve British problems through a close link to an organization experiencing regional economic disaster and organization-wide stagnation. These voters were not persuaded by the idea that leaving the EU would lead to economic disaster. Their sense was that remaining in the European Union would force Britain to share Europe's fate.

Obviously they did not think that Europe would throw up trade barriers against Britain. The U.K. is Germany's third most important export target; The last thing Germany wants is a trade war with Britain. Similarly, the threat that London's banks would decamp for Frankfurt is not only logistically implausible, but doesn't take the banks' clients into account. Clients from around the world like visiting London and it is the clients that matter in finance. By moving to Frankfurt, New York would become a unique magnet. Frankfurt, not so much. In the end, the Europeans need the financial services London provides. They will not lock it out. The European Union did not create the financial relationships that exist. Britain's financial role goes back almost two centuries. The EU is a system that aligns with financial reality. It does not create it. The threat of consequences was not persuasive.


The second reason had to do with a global trend toward nationalism. There is a sense that the multinational financial, trade and defense organizations created after World War II have ceased to function effectively. The EU is an example, but the International Monetary Fund and NATO are other examples. More than not serving any purpose, these institutions do harm in malfunctioning and most important, take control away from the nation. For supporters of remaining, such organizations are self-evidently valuable and may need to be tweaked but not abandoned. For those voting to leave, these organizations take away sovereignty from the nation, and therefore the nation loses control over its own fate. Lacking trust in these entities and fearing the consequences of losing control, nationalism becomes a powerful attraction.

The immigration crisis in Europe was a trigger. While leaders of some countries and of the EU argued that aiding the refugees was a moral obligation, opponents of the EU saw this as a national issue, as it affected the internal life of the country. The attempt to take control of this issue away from Britain was a particularly important driver for the "leave" vote. The EU has trouble understanding the power of nationalism. It attempts to retain nationality as a cultural right, but deprive the nation of power to make many decisions. This strategy was embraced before 2008, but became difficult to accept after.

Political Elitism

Finally, there was a profound loss of the political leadership of Britain, with the leaders of both the Conservative and Labour parties rejected by the "leave" voters. Both parties had endorsed remaining with the EU, and both parties saw many of their members go into opposition on the issue. Indeed, in many ways this was a three-way struggle, with the two established parties wanting to remain in the EU and a third faction, drawn from both parties, opposing it. People in this third group saw both establishment parties as hostile to their interests.

This should be considered in the broader sense. The financial markets panicked at the possibility of an anti-EU vote. They said so loudly. What they did not grasp was the degree to which they had lost legitimacy in 2008. It appeared to this third group that the financial industry's recklessness and incompetence had created a disaster for many. In addition, many of the voters saw no benefit to themselves in the success of the financial industry or its location in London. While in Britain, the financial industry would have disproportionate influence, that would harm the voters.

The degree to which this was a vote that was directed against the British elite is vital to understand. Politicians, business leaders and intellectuals were all seen as having lost their right to control the system. The elites had contempt for their values - for their nationalism and their interests. This is not a new phenomenon in Europe, but it is one that the EU had thought it had banished.

This is not a British phenomenon by any means. It is something that is sweeping Europe and China. It is also present in the United States, in the figure of Donald Trump whose entire strategy is to attack both the Democratic and Republican leadership and the elite who have contempt for the nationalism and moral principles of those beneath them. It is a general process the West is undergoing, and it came to London yesterday.

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Brexit: A Cousin Of Trumpism? A Distant Cousin Of Fascism?

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 17:50
June 24, 2016: I spoke to my friend in Britain this morning. Still absorbing the shock that her nation had voted itself out of Europe, she said, "Today I live in a different country." I recognized the sentiment. It was widespread in this country, the USA, in the wake of 9-11. When people said, "Everything has changed."

Practical things will be different in Britain. Companies will migrate to the continent for free access to the larger market. Border crossings coming and going will become cumbersome. What will happen when passport control is reinstituted to move between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which is an EU member? Scotland, with a population already feeling largely alienated from the UK, voted 62% to remain in the EU. Will the desire to rejoin Europe lead to a new referendum to separate from the UK?

But of course my friend meant more than practical questions. Already there is a mood that has set in. A new mood. One that recognizes that not only is today fundamentally different than yesterday, but that the difference will go forward for decades. Again the 9-11 analogy presents itself--in this country we are already fifteen contentious years into war footing.

There is an irony in this referendum having stamped the British future so heavily. It is disproportionately the work of an older generation that will not have to live with its long-term consequences.

According to a YouGov poll, a huge majority of people under 50 voted to Remain. Among 18-24-year-olds, the age category that's going to have to live with the consequences of this vote for all of their working lives, 75 percent voted to stay.

The vote is not just a clash of different ages, but of urban versus suburban and rural. The only region in all of England and Wales to vote in favor of remaining in the EU was Greater London. And that by a twenty percent margin. This cosmopolitan/provincial division will be familiar to Americans who have been paying attention to the Tea Party since 2009, and this year to Donald Trump's candidacy for the presidency.

Trump himself certainly sees the connection. Here's what he wrote in an email to his followers this morning:

Last night UK voters shocked the world...reassert[ed] control over their borders, politics and economy...put the United Kingdom first and they took their country back. [T]he political elites didn't see this coming. Let's send another shockwave around the world.

Commentators have been pointing out the similarities between the politics of Trump's rise to the Republican nomination and the anti-immigrant politics of the far-right parties that have mounted increasingly strong electoral showings in recent years throughout Europe. In Britain, that party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), is the big winner in the Brexit vote. Today UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage, argued that June 23 should become a national holiday which would be called Independence Day. Sounding like Trump supporter Sarah Palin talking about the "real Americans," Farage boasted, "This is a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people." He also claimed, probably correctly, that anti-immigrant parties across Europe, like the Marine LePen's National Front in France, will put EU-exit referenda before their national constituencies before long.

UKIP had forced the hand of Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron to put Brexit up for referendum in the first place. Here too we find echoes of the Tea Party and Trump in their fraught relations with the establishment Republican Party. Far right Euroskeptic members of the Conservative Party had long been troubled by the growth of power and bureaucracy in Brussels. Increasingly, these members sounded like UKIP on the EU question. The pressure they brought to bear on the Conservative establishment resembled the demands of the Tea Partiers among the House Republicans who primaried Eric Cantor, the party's number two, out of office and brought down Speaker John Boehner after years of legislative obstructionism. All this, of course, turned out to be a prelude to Donald Trump's routing of the Republican establishment this primary season, based on an anti-immigrant appeal even more radical than UKIP's. In the UK the radicals forced Cameron to call for a referendum that he would finally campaign against.

Cameron might never have called the referendum had it not been for the rise and rise of Nigel Farage and Ukip. By January 2013, when the prime minister called the EU vote, Ukip had started to gain traction in local elections and was polling in double digits for the first time. There was a feeling that several Tory backbenchers could defect if Cameron failed to heed their calls for a plebiscite.

In the US, the Trump campaign has elicited the most serious discussion of the threat of fascism--even among conservatives--in modern memory. Wherever fascism has come to power, it has benefited from a conservative establishment that believed it could make use of a rising and obstreperous movement on its right to do in its liberal opposition. Conservatives believed they could ride out the vulgarity and extremism of the upstarts and maintain control. This, despite the movement's explicit opposition to established power wherever it lay on the political spectrum. In Italy, collaborating with Mussolini's Fascist Party, the country's most important conservative politician, Antonio Salandra, continued to call himself an "honorary Fascist" until shortly before Mussolini made his party illegal.

In Britain and the USA, conservatives believing they could control the extremists to their right have both come a cropper this year. In the US, this comes after decades of far-right Republicans suppressing their resentment at the party's establishment for never quite coming through in office with promises--like getting rid of Obamacare--they made soliciting votes. Cameron announcing in 2013 he would have a referendum on leaving the EU; Trump riding down his escalator to announce his run for the presidency: in each case both media and political elites saw these moves as fancifully playing to small audiences. Conventional political wisdom failed to grasp the gravity of what was being launched.

Trump's success among the white male working class has been a dominant theme of the primary campaign in the US. The wave of immiseration in post-Reagan deindustrialized America was described in a widely publicized study published last December that showed that epidemic rates of suicide and substance abuse--alcohol, heroin and prescription opiods--have combined to increase the mortality rate for whites between the ages of 45 and 54, with high-school education or less, in a manner paralleled "only [by] HIV/AIDS in contemporary times." A more robust welfare state has mitigated the worst health consequences of a similar development in post-Thatcher Britain. But the Brexit working class anti-EU voters seem to carry a similar resentment sensing themselves a class being left behind amidst flourishing tech and financial sectors. And in both countries, immigration has provided a ready-to-hand explanation of the dysfunctions of contemporary working-class life chances and the betrayal of the ruling elites.

In the 1960s and 1970s writers like Thomas Bottomore, Nicos Poulantzas and A. F. K. Organski analyzed the conditions which made societies ripe for successful fascist movements. Fundamental to these theories was citing a national economic structure that had a great disparity in terms of modernization. Post-World War I Italy and Germany both had systems of agricultural land holdings (latifondisti and Junkers) largely unchanged since feudalism. This was in contrast to highly developed economic sectors like automotive and aeronautics. The coexistence of such mismatched sectors in a country created a "fascistogenic" potential, and much of this thinking gave rise to a functionalist view of fascism that saw it as a mechanism for rapidly developing countries into full modernization.

Structurally, something similar seems to be happening in reverse. That is, instead of a situation in which structural disparity results from some sectors failing to develop while other sectors raced ahead, we now are fostering structural disparities owing to sectors that are falling backwards, out of the modern (or post-modern) world. Are we coming to another situation where economic-stage disparity puts societies at risk for fascist-like irruptions? This is not a question which can be answered here, but the point is that whatever has led to Brexit and whatever has led to Trump has roots in the social structure of today's democracies. Which means that these are not issues that are going to go away in a single election year. And the threat of right-wing extremism coming to power is likely to be with us for some time to come.

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Good Reasons For A Brexit 'Do-Over'

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 17:36
Britain should conduct a "do you really mean it?" second referendum on Brexit. Soon.

True, the British people indeed have spoken, voting to exit the European Union by 52-48 percent. By contrast in 1975, they voted to remain by a 2:1 margin. That's rather decisive. 52-48 percent, not so much. But, that is not the main reason for a do-over.

Equally true, the world has replied by decisively tanking markets by $2.1 Trillion in the first day alone, fleeing the British pound, and through a series of congratulations from likes of Vladimir Putin, the Iran Mullahs and Donald Trump, a trio that can make one feel confident that one has done the right thing.

The "Leave" campaign has also spoken, reneging on its promises of £350 million per week to be freed now to invest in the National Health Service and stating that immigration laws will not change. They lied during the campaign.

Scotland and Northern Ireland are speaking. As EU membership was a major factor in Scotland voting to remain in the United Kingdom, a fresh referendum is now inevitable. The push for a united Ireland referendum will become irresistible--what are they going to do, re-install the border control between the Republic and Northern Ireland?

Most importantly, the British people have awakened to a chilling reality: the disdained experts, whom a "Leave" leader declared everyone was tired of hearing from, were right. Couple that with reports of frantic googling by British citizens trying to learn what the EU that they just voted to leave actually is, and the case for a "do-over" becomes compelling.

Why should the British be stuck with a decision they now know is worse than they allowed themselves to believe, that was based on flagrant lies, and about which they had insufficient understanding when it is perfectly possible to have a "do-over"?

If the vote were for a particular office, then constituents have power during his or her tenure to influence how that individual conducts the office. The officeholder can be held accountable for promises and failure to execute. And, arguably at least, the officeholder has earned a right to that office by virtue of the vote that a second vote may take away.

Brexit is quite different. There is no post-hoc opportunity to influence the outcome, and there is no one who has earned any right to any office. There is no accountability. If it were "leave" on June 23, 2016, it would be just as proper to say, "we have had second thoughts and want to stay", on August 15, 2016, or reaffirm that "leave" it is.

Is it inherently unfair to re-do a vote until one gets the desired outcome for one side? Yes. Is it unfair to re-do a vote when the country was lied to, and the implications of the decision were wrongly discounted, and when none of the protagonists can be held accountable?

No, that is not unfair. But, to make it less contentious, overturning the prior vote in a new referendum might require 55% majority to remain, and at least the same total number of votes as "leave" received in the first vote. That is, it should be definitive and a clear admission of "mistake".

David Cameron must still go. He risked the country, he risked world stability,risked western security with a little ploy to keep himself in power during the last election.

The British public should have another "go" at this. It no longer needs the disdained experts to help them with their choices, because they now know from direct experience what "Leave" entails.

If they reverse themselves, the first vote will have been enough of a shock so that the EU reforms itself -- with Britain on the inside shaping those changes.

For everyone's sake, let us have a Brexit do-over.

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Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson Says He Will Vote For Hillary Clinton

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 16:29

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Henry Paulson, a Republican who was U.S. Treasury secretary during the 2008 financial meltdown, on Friday called a Donald Trump presidency "unthinkable" and said he will vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Paulson joins a growing list of establishment Republicans who say they will not cast a ballot in the Nov. 8 election for Trump, the party's presumptive nominee and a political neophyte whose populist rhetoric runs counter to many long-held Republican principles.

"When it comes to the presidency, I will not vote for Donald Trump," Paulson, who was chief executive of Goldman Sachs before becoming Treasury chief under Republican President George W. Bush, wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

"I'll be voting for Hillary Clinton, with the hope that she can bring Americans together to do the things necessary to strengthen our economy, our environment and our place in the world," he said.

Paulson accused Trump, who has touted his business acumen as a real estate developer during his campaign, of taking "imprudent risk" and then disavowing his debts when ventures fail.

He also took aim at Trump's opposition to trade agreements, which Paulson said have created U.S. jobs and fostered innovation and competitiveness.

"Simply put, a Trump presidency is unthinkable," Paulson said.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brent Scowcroft, a national security adviser to two Republican presidents, endorsed Clinton on Wednesday, and Richard Armitage, a deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush, said last week he would support her.

Paulson, who helped steer a $700 billion bailout of the financial system through Congress during the financial meltdown, said Trump is a "phony" who is unfit to be president.

"I can't help but think what would have happened if a divisive character such as Trump were president during the 2008 financial crisis, at a time when leadership, compromise and careful analysis were critical," he said.

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Brexit Could Encourage British Companies To Pollute And Waste More

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 16:03

Splitting away from the European Union won't just choke the British economy. British companies may end up creating more trash and dirtying the air in the wake of the Brexit, according to a new report. 

When the EU's ambitious targets for reducing waste and increasing recycling first went into effect two years ago, the United Kingdom pushed back, insisting that it would be too expensive for businesses to comply. Once negotiations to leave the EU are complete -- a process that could take two years or more -- U.K. legislators may scale back those regulations, found a report examining environmental and social governance at U.K. corporations from investor research firm Sustainalytics.

“Recycling rights in the U.K. trailed off in the last few years,” Doug Morrow, a Toronto-based associate director at Sustainalytics who co-authored the report, told The Huffington Post. “We wouldn’t be surprised if we found a relaxation of the recycling targets.” 

Companies polluting the air in England may be able to breathe easier, too. In memos leaked to The Guardian in May, Rory Stewart -- the Conservative environment minister under Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation in the wake of the Brexit vote -- urged British members of the European parliament to undermine new EU regulations on air pollution by pushing for an amendment allowing Britain to exceed those standards.  Such a change would give leeway to sectors that emit a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, such as the auto industry.

“We would not be surprised if, once the terms [of the Brexit] are renegotiated, the U.K. moved to relax some of the domestic air pollution standards,” Morrow said. “It’s relatively well known that the U.K. has struggled with implementing some of the EU’s directives on this front.”

In January, just eight days into the new year, London had already breached the EU’s air pollution limits.

Even so, there’s no need to panic, Morrow said. The report, which judged British companies in nine areas of corporate governance, found that policy change was unlikely in all but recycling and air pollution. The other areas are climate change, human capital, product quality standards, health and safety, corporate governance, executive pay and intellectual property rights.

“We don’t foresee a likely divergence, certainly over the short run, because a lot of the relevant EU directives have become embedded in the way things are so foundationally,” Morrow said. “On both sides of the debate, the Leave and the Stay, there was an exaggeration of what it’ll mean for U.K. companies.”

“Though,” he added, “obviously they have two years to negotiate the terms of the withdrawal.”

When you consider that in 2014 Cameron lauded the decision by Scottish voters to remain a part of the U.K., a lot can change in two years.

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George Will Jumps From Sinking Ship That Is The GOP

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 14:45

Longtime conservative columnist George Will is wiping his hands clean of the Republican Party. 

"This is not my party," Will told PJ Media on Saturday. The Washington Post writer said a Democratic presidency would be better than the alternative offered by Donald Trump -- who once called Will a "major loser."

“Make sure he loses," Will said of the presumptive GOP nominee. "Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House." 

His voter registration in Maryland has now changed from Republican to "unaffiliated," PJ Media reported. The final straw was House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis) endorsement of Trump, he said. 

In the meantime, Trump continues to fumble over himself. Just this week, he fired his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski before setting off to Scotland to promote his golf resorts. 

“He had one good day because he didn’t vomit all over himself and gave a decent speech,” GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak said of Trump.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. 

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In 2016, Why Are Voters Still Paying Poll Taxes?

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 14:43
With today's third anniversary of the Shelby v. Holder decision, I am reminded of two poll tax receipts hanging in my Congressional office. On January 31, 1949, my grandparents traveled to the tax assessor's office in Jack County to pay their annual poll tax.

My grandparents worked hard to save enough money to pay their poll tax of one dollar and seventy-five cents - the equivalent of $36.16 today. Their receipts are a constant reminder that only over seventy years ago, African Americans were legally required to pay to exercise a constitutionally protected right. In 1964, the courts and Congress finally realized that the practice was immoral and eliminated poll taxes altogether through the Twenty-fourth amendment and in Supreme Court decisions.

The original 1949 poll tax receipts of Congressman Marc Veasey's grandparents hang in his Congressional office in Washington D.C.

Almost fifty years after the original 1965 Voting Rights Act fully protected the ballot box, the Supreme Court handed down the Shelby v. Holder decision which effectively dismantled key provisions of the historical civil rights legislation. The ruling set in motion what many feared: states subjecting minorities, seniors, and low-income Americans to unfair, punitive barriers designed to prevent them from exercising their right to vote. Since the 2013 decision, 33 states have implemented laws that again make it difficult for traditionally disenfranchised communities to cast their ballots.

Just hours after the Supreme Court decision, my home state of Texas began to enforce one of the strictest voter ID laws in the nation. The new law requires citizens to present specific identification that is cost prohibitive for minority, poor, disabled, and elderly voters. Even "free" election certificates require obtaining supporting documents like birth certificates that vary in price range. Voters must now effectively pay at least $20 to $50 dollars before they can obtain an ID, register to vote, and then present that ID to cast their ballot. Frankly, the practice amounts to a modern day poll tax. That is why I introduced the Poll Tax Prohibition Act to forbid requiring a person to present solely forms of ID that have associated costs in order to vote or register to vote in a federal election.

Until the ratification of the 24th Amendment in 1964, African Americans and other disenfranchised communities were legally required to pay to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Supporters of the strict ID laws claim that these laws are designed to prevent "rampant" voter fraud, which is why only certain forms of identification are acceptable. However, there is no evidence that in-person voter fraud is widespread or that accepting only certain forms of photo ID is the solution. According to a Department of Justice study outlined during a 2006 Congressional hearing, out of the 197 million votes cast for federal candidates between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters were indicted for voter fraud. Only 26 of those cases or about .00000013 percent of the votes cast, resulted in convictions or guilty pleas. It is clear that the photo ID requirement is not a solution to a problem but is instead a political ploy to prevent traditionally disenfranchised populations from voting for the candidates of their choice.

But it isn't just Texas leading the charge on finding roundabout ways to suppress today's voters. States like Wisconsin, that don't have a Civil War era history of discrimination, are now implementing some of the harshest voter ID laws as well. As a result, Mrs. Ruthelle Frank, who was born at home in Wisconsin in 1927, has been unable to vote. Unlike many Americans born at home by midwives, she was fortunate enough to have a record of her birth at the Wisconsin State Register of Deeds. However, Ms. Frank's maiden name, Wedepohl, is spelled incorrectly on her birth certificate which, under her home state's new voter ID law, renders it an unacceptable form of ID to re-register to vote. For citizens like Ms. Frank, the process to correct a birth certificate could cost up to $200, a costly expense for many senior citizens living on limited income.

In Shelby v. Holder, the Supreme Court called on Congress to update the Voting Rights Act to meet modern needs and yet Congress has failed to enact pending legislation to restore the protections gutted by the Court. This November, the need to break down barriers for voters is more important than ever. Americans from my grandparents' era paid the price, both with their hard earned money and with their literal blood, sweat and tears, to exercise their right to vote. No American today should have to do the same.

The Poll Tax Prohibition Act will encourage states to work towards finding fair means to identify voters and prevent fraud that will not infringe on citizen's right to vote. My 103-year-old grandmother has lived to see the ballot box protected for all Americans. Now, she has also seen people's suffrage compromised once again. I will not let that be the end of her story and we must not let it be the end of our legacy.

On June 23, 2016, Congressman Marc Veasey (TX-33) was joined by Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-7), Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus, Barbara Arnwine, Esq. of the Transformative Justice Coalition, and other Members of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus during a press conference demanding immediate action on voting rights legislation to restore access to the ballot box nationwide.

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Dear David Cameron: Be A Leader, Not A Quitter

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 14:22


Dear David Cameron,

While it's true that Thursday didn't go so well (and let's be honest, Friday went even worse by most things that are measurable), it was very clear from the outset that you've been dealing with this crisis as a dyed-in-the-wool Brit.

From the American point of view, this is meant to be a back-handed compliment.

You gracefully fell on your sword by announcing your resignation when the people spoke and determined -- by a small margin, mind you -- that your vision for the country was not aligned with theirs. This move was novel and oddly dignified from the American perspective. When American political leaders are not aligned with the majority of Americans, they simply believe that cable news, talk radio, and/or the liberal media are to blame for the lack of alignment. They would never blame themselves. In fact, they would become even more determined to bend the beliefs of the country toward their will.

You see, in American politics, it isn't about quitting -- it's about winning.

So, David, instead of quitting like a quitter, why not instead act like the professional politician that you claim to be and walk it back like any self-respecting politician would?

With a host of Brexit voters admitting that they really didn't mean it, and a sizeable chunk of citizens suddenly Googling "What is the EU?" after the vote was tallied, it would seem only rational that instead of selling out your own people, you should instead be cutting them some slack and giving them the opportunity to try again.

After all, the last UK referendum was all the way back in 2011 on the decision of "whether to change the voting system for electing MPs to the House of Commons from first past the post to the alternative vote." Riveting stuff. It's no wonder that far less than half of your people participated in that vote.

What you did with the Brexit/Remain vote was truly unfair: it's not like you put the citizens in charge of governing things on a regular basis so that they really understood what their job was on June 23. If we're calling this straight, you set up your people to fail. You expected all of your citizens -- who are already quite busy getting on with their lives -- to be foreign, domestic, and economic policy experts writ large, and gave them one shot to understand all the complexities of EU membership with a single vote, with no facility for a test vote to see how it would go, or any ability for a "Take 2." Ridiculous. You really just set them up to let everyone down by making their dress rehearsal the only show they'd ever perform.

The good news, David, is that it's never too late to stop quitting and start winning. It's time to start floating some trial balloons to see which mental model can withstand the test of the UK's political will. Some example trial balloons could include:

  • "Thursday's vote was indeed historic, but what we're learning after the fact is that too many of our voters didn't vote with their full confidence and conviction. Because there is no law stopping me from calling another "full confidence" vote, I shall be calling for one immediately, to take place in 2017."

  • "Based on the feedback we're getting from those who voted "exit" that they would not vote the same way again, we feel it is our obligation as a government to ensure that the true will of the people is heard, not the first try of the people."

  • "I must deeply apologize for what I've done to the citizens of the United Kingdom. I gave you all significant amounts of responsibility to decide the future of our kingdom, yet I did not provide you with any kind of training, rehearsal or even official documentation to help ensure that you knew exactly what you were voting for or against. It's clear from the aftermath that I've failed you, and for that, I not only apologize, but I also will be linking my resignation with a call for another referendum vote. But this time, I promise to prepare you with materials that clearly outline what the EU does for the UK, and what the EU would no longer do for the UK if we decide to leave it."

This all must seem quite undignified compared to your super-dignified response to losing the Brexit referendum. But when it's obvious that your citizens are not even trusting themselves to act rationally on their (unrehearsed) opportunity to decide their own future, maybe it's time to treat them as they actually are: amateur, unrehearsed referendum voters that need more than just one chance to understand their role and their responsibilities.

Is holding another vote impracticable? Sure. Is it even a good idea for your political system? Surely not. But that's what makes American politics so dynamic: we don't let things like this stop us from doing what we think needs to be done!

In closing, Mr. Cameron, if you're going to put forth a decision with these kinds of complex consequences in your people's hands. At least from the American political perspective, you have the responsibility to ensure that they are adequately prepared to take on that kind of responsibility. You need to lead, not quit.

Now that "the cast" understands how their vote plays on the "big stage," it's your duty as a leader to call for another vote -- a vote to confirm that the true will of the people has been heard. Otherwise, you've simply handed over your country's future to a bunch of amateurs who never even got a chance to rehearse.


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Donald Trump Appears To Shift On Muslim Ban

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-06-25 13:09

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Donald Trump appeared to shift his position on a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the United States, saying on Saturday he wouldn't be bothered if a Muslim from Scotland or Great Britain entered, according to reporters from CBS and CNN.

Trump first called for a "total and complete shutdown" on Muslim immigration in December. After a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Trump called for a complete immigration ban from countries with a history of terrorism against the United States. But on Saturday, Trump shifted, telling CNN's Jeremy Diamond he only wanted to focus on "people coming from the terror states." Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, also told Diamond that Trump no longer supports a blanket ban and only wants to ban Muslims from terror states.

It's unclear which countries, exactly, this applies to. The three countries on the State Department's official list of state sponsors of terrorism are Syria, Iran and Sudan, but terrorist groups are complex organizations that can have members in several countries, including U.S. allies. Several of the suspected terrorists involved in the Paris attacks, for example, were French nationals. Two of the brothers involved in the March Brussels attack were Belgian-born.

Hicks did not respond to an additional request for comment from The Huffington Post.

Also on Saturday, Trump declined to characterize his mass deportation plan as such, despite having put forward an immigration plan focused on removing 11 million people from the U.S. He has previously promised to create a "deportation force" to achieve that and has also praised "Operation Wetback," an effort by the government under Dwight Eisenhower to deport undocumented immigrants in the 1950s.

“President Obama has mass deported vast numbers of people -- the most ever, and it’s never reported. I think people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody,” he told Bloomberg. Asked whether he would issue "mass deportations," Trump said " “no, I would not call it mass deportations.”

The Muslim ban has been a central pillar of Trump's campaign for president. Given his penchant for saying virtually anything with little regard for the facts or previous statements, it's unclear whether he will stick by what he said on Saturday.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.