Ted Cruz: Facing The Bane and The Benefit of Obamacare

It’s time to Break It Down!

Only in America, as Don King might say. On Monday, Senator Cruz announced his candidacy for President. However, a funny thing happened on the way to a Ted Cruz Presidency. Heidi Cruz, the Senator’s wife has taken unpaid sick leave for the duration of her husband’s Presidential campaign. As a result, she will not receive company benefits, including health insurance, during this period.

Cruz has previously said he gets his insurance coverage via Mrs. Cruz’s plan, boasting about not needing to receive government health care benefits. Oops!

I must pause for a moment to make a small but key observation. The attitude demonstrated by individuals whom, based upon their comments and actions, seem to harbor distaste for government and government services, yet spend anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars to get elected to government offices display a deep conflict at best, and possibly are afflicted with cognitive dissonance. The Senator’s comments reflect that type of disconnect.

Senator Cruz has made a fair amount of political hay opposing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. He indicated to Dana Bash of CNN yesterday that he will sign up for health care coverage through the ACA. Given his efforts to kill the program, which he says he’s still committed to do if he becomes President, there is an acute irony that he now finds himself about to acquire coverage under the program.

In his own words, he said, “We’ll be getting new health insurance and we’ll presumably do it through my job with the Senate, and so we’ll be on the federal exchange with millions of others on the federal exchange.” Somewhere in Washington, I can imagine President Obama flashing a Cheshire cat grin. Frankly, it’s hard to blame him.

Even as the Senator prepares to get Obamacare, he continues to rail that Obamacare has decimated the private health insurance market. As he put it, “What is problematic about Obamacare is that it is killing millions of jobs in this country and has killed millions of jobs, it has forced millions of people into part time work. It has caused millions of people to lose their insurance, to lose their doctors and to face skyrocketing insurance premiums. That is unacceptable.”

Of course, that’s the Senator’s story. We understand that over the course of the Obama Presidency, the economic and employment picture in this county has rebounded significantly in virtually every measurable metric. But what about health care, specifically?

Good question; I’m glad I asked it. The Congressional Budget Office has monitored the effects of the ACA, and finds that the program has lowered healthcare costs even more than initially projected, and that it has slowed the rate health care inflation rates. Whitehouse.gov released a report that shows:

  • Health care spending growth is the lowest on record
  • Health care price inflation is the lowest in 50 years
  • Recent slow growth in health care spending has substantially improved the long-term Federal budget outlook
  • The slowdown in health care costs is more than just an artifact of the 2007-2009 recession
    • The slowdown appears to reflect “structural” changes in the United States health care system, a conclusion consistent with a substantial body of recent research.
    • The ACA is contributing to the recent slow growth in health care prices and spending and is improving the quality of care.
    • New economic research shows that the ACA’s Medicare reforms are likely to reduce health care spending and improve quality system-wide.
    • Accounting for “spillovers” implies that the ACA’s effect on health care price inflation may be even larger than previously understood.
    • In the short run, slower growth in health spending is a positive for employment.
    • Over the long run, slower growth in health spending translates directly into higher wages and living standards.
    • CBO estimates that the ACA will substantially reduce long-term deficits.

In the real world, there is a familiar idiomatic expression, “What goes around, comes around.” It’s fair to say, at least for the moment, we live in a world where we get to contemplate this reality…“Ted Cruz: Facing The Bane and The Benefit of Obamacare!” Who woulda thunk it?

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com or http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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Eric Holder/Loretta Lynch: The Contrarians’ Confounding Conundrum

It’s time to Break It Down!

Now that we are in the formative stages of the 2016 Presidential Election Season, it’s fair to say Hillary Clinton is without question the person Republicans want most to remand to ranks of permanently unemployed Democratic politicians. To be more specific, they want to make certain that she does not succeed in her still unannounced (wink-wink) quest to succeed President Obama as our nation’s Commander-in-Chief.

Interestingly, however, that is not the Party of the Elephant Symbol’s most puzzling paradox. Mrs. Clinton, while biding her time, and artfully evading, or strategically answering the faux indignation laced questions of Republicans and Fox News anchors, and analysts-in-training, is the odds-on favorite to capture the Democratic Party nomination. She will almost certainly reveal her intentions to pursue the nomination…eventually, in other words, in her own good time.

However, let’s be clear, Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder is the current administration staffer not named Barack Obama that the GOP most wants to assume the title, “former administration official.” One does not have to wonder hard or long to about why the GOP harbors so much enmity against Mr. Holder.

A quick look at his Ivy League pedigree, his resume, his distinguished accomplishments, including rising to the highest level of federal government administration, his bold policy initiatives, and his unflappably frank discourse on matters of race and diversity in America and its legal system, show him to be a man of character, courage, and conviction; very much like the man who nominated him, President Obama. That pretty much says it all. That they are close personal friends adds injury to insult to the Party that detests him.

Yes, he is the face of “Fast and Furious (F&F),” the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Agency gunwalking scandal, not the movie franchise. The initiative derived its name because ATF agents discovered the prime suspect, Jacob Chambers, belonged to a car club. Of course, like a lot of the Obama Administration’s trenchant problems, F&F dates back to the Bush Administration, launching in 2006. As much as anything else, AG Holder routinely serves as a lightning rod for all the things many Republicans hate about President Obama…and then some.

For all the pushback President Obama received as a result of his comments about Skip Gates, the Harvard Professor who was harassed by a Cambridge police officer while attempting to enter his own home, about Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen murdered by George Zimmerman, and anything else regarding race relations in America, he really has tread lightly when it comes to the subject. AG Holder, on the other hand, not fettered by the constraints of the Oval Office, has on occasion spoken bluntly and directly about the issue.

In a February 19, 2009 speech commemorating Black History Month, the first speech after his confirmation, he said to an overflow crowd at the Justice Department (DOJ):

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

He added:

“On Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago. This is truly sad.”

Earlier this month, AG Holder’s DOJ released twin reports on the Ferguson Missouri Police Department. One found that Officer Darren Wilson did not violate Michael Brown’s civil rights when he shot him. The report effectively validated the findings of the Grand Jury, which opted not to indict Wilson. Conservatives far and wide hailed this report.   They concluded, wrongly in my opinion that the officer acted properly in killing Wilson. I believe he profiled Wilson as policemen in Ferguson did to blacks for years, and had every opportunity to call for backup before confronting the suspects alone in that neighborhood. This however is a discussion for another time.

In the other report, of which conservatives tend to either overlook, or offer scathing reviews, the DOJ found the Ferguson Police Department had routinely and consistently violated the civil rights of African Americans for many years. I posted about the report on March 4th (https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/2015/03/04/ferguson-the-department-of-justice-speaks/), so I will not re-plow that field. You can check it out at you leisure, in the event you missed it.

Suffice it to say, opposition to Mr. Holder is and has been intense. The Republican led House of Representatives held him in criminal contempt of Congress in 2012. When he announced his resignation last September, House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said he “Welcome(d) the news.”

Here’s the rub. If there is one person the GOP disdains more than AG Holder, it is President Obama. Much of the Party’s Leadership coalesced to forge a pact aimed at denying President Obama any victories, and limiting to one term. Clearly, they failed in both endeavors, but apparently they believe in the axiom, “Nothing beats a failure, but a try.” Hence, they continue to persevere and try. As a result of this anti-Obama compulsion, they are delaying Ms. Lynch’s Confirmation Hearings.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Connell (R-KY), told CNN’s Dana Bash, on this past Sunday’s “State of the Union” Show, he plans to hold up Ms. Lynch’s confirmation until the Senate passes a controversial human trafficking bill. In his words:

“This will have an impact on the timing of considering a new attorney general. I had hoped to turn to her next week, but if we can’t finish the trafficking bill, she will be put off again.”

It has already been 160 days since President Obama nominated Ms. Lynch. This is already the longest delay in confirming an AG since President Reagan nominated Edwin Meese in 1985, thirty years ago.

Undoubtedly, from a GOP standpoint, the best thing about Ms. Lynch is she is not AG Holder. It is generally anticipated that once the hearings convene, she will be confirmed. However, the irony is, the longer the GOP delays the probable, if not inevitable, the longer Eric Holder retains the title United States Attorney General. Works for me! In fact, I like to call this deluded detour from responsible governance and common sense, “Eric Holder/Loretta Lynch: The Contrarians’ Confounding Conundrum!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com or http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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From Selma to Norman: Right Now!

It’s time to Break It Down!

Over the past weekend, our nation, at least some of us, observed an historical event, and the subsequent progress in race and matters of diversity over the past fifty years. The story of Bloody Sunday, which unfolded March 7, 1965 on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, has been memorialized in history books, and recently in the movie “Selma.”

On that fateful Sunday, approximately 600 marchers assembled in Selma, intending to march to Montgomery, Alabama’s Capital. John Lewis and a number of other leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Coalition (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led the March. As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River, on their way out of town, Alabama State Troopers and other local law enforcement officers blocked their path.

The troopers ordered the marchers to turn around. When the marchers refused, the officers shot them with tear gas, and waded into the crowd beating the protesters with billy clubs, hospitalizing over fifty of them, and earning the events of the day the name “Bloody Sunday.” The actions of those overzealous troopers and policemen abusing peaceful protesters were televised around the world.  Martin Luther King called for civil rights supporters to come to Selma for a second march. The marchers tried again on March 9, and ultimately a third time on March 21st, when they completed the trek, with the aid of federal protection.

On August 6, 1965, Congress passed the federal Voting Rights Act. This was the desired outcome, which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had envisioned. Still, “Bloody Sunday was about more than a piece of federal legislation. It highlighted the multiple competing tensions Dr. King had to circumnavigate, as he faced the pressure of a radical (for its time) social movement, federal calls for restraint, as well as the palpable dissonance between SNCC and the SCLC.

Over the weekend President Obama and at least one hundred members of Congress went to Selma to honor and observe the history made in Selma fifty years ago. A great deal was made of the disclosure earlier last week that the GOP Leadership planned to skip the weekend’s events in Selma, along with Republican Presidential hopefuls. After some significant peer pressure from Democratic Congressmen, the House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy decided at the last minute to change his plans and attend. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, an African American also attended, though he is a rank and file member, not part of the GOP Leadership structure.

In all, reports are that twenty-three members of the GOP eventually “scheduled” attendance. That list did not include House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, or Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, or any of the Party’s other projected Presidential candidates. Balanced reporting requires that I note Hillary Clinton skipped the event too. Perhaps she was busy working on a response to Email-gate. In any event, Democrats were solidly represented. I am not sure Rand Paul would have gained serious ground by attending. Obviously, we will not have to spend anytime pondering the question.

There was a point when I thought the GOP’s collective reluctance to be seen in “The Heart of Dixie” (one of Alabama’s unofficial nicknames) this past weekend would be the point of this post. Too bad the KKK was not as inclined to be scares of presence. Robert Jones, the Grand Dragon of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK said about 4,000 KKK fliers were distributed in Selma and Montgomery in the two weeks preceding the 50-year Observance last weekend. In his words, “We pretty much put out fliers, some against King and some against immigration. It’s time for the American people to wake up to these falsehoods that they preach about MLK.”

That inclination, however, was before several esteemed members of the University of Oklahoma Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (Also sometimes referred to as SAE) Fraternity were portrayed on a video singing a racist chant, including, among other things, the words approximating, “There will never be a nigger SAE/There will never be a nigger SAE/You can hang him from a tree/But he’ll never sign with me/There will never be a nigger SAE.”

The video, taped Saturday, was leaked Sunday. The SAE National Organization closed the University of Oklahoma Chapter of SAE.  The University subsequently closed the House, and suspended at least two students, presumably those who could be identified singing the chant. One of the two students, Parker Rice, has since apologized. The Dallas Morning News has reported that Rice said, “I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless. I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same.”

As if, the fratboy chant weren’t enough, the Oklahoma Daily, the student newspaper posted a 2013 Vine depicting the chapter’s House Mom, Beauton Gilbow, laughing and talking over a rap song, rapidly repeating the N-word seven times in rapid succession. The sound of “All Gold Everything,” by Trinidad James, a black Atlanta-based rapper, can be heard in the background.

Ms. Gilbow, known as Momma B by the Chapter’s fraternity family, said, “I have been made aware that a video of me that is circulating on social media and in the news. I am heartbroken by the portrayal that I am in some way racist. I have friends of all races and do not tolerate any form of discrimination in my life. I was singing along to a Trinidad song, but completely understand how the video must appear in the context of the events that occurred this week.”

This convoluted defense is made all the more, shall we say interesting, by an earlier statement from her after the Fraternity’s suspension, but before the release of the Vine. In her previous statement, she had contended, in a statement to CNN affiliate KOCO-TV that she was blindsided by the overall controversy.  In that interview, she said, “I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me. This has been my life for 15 years. And it’s tough.”  Hmmm!

The Fraternity is no stranger to race-based controversy. The chapter at Washington University in St. Louis gained notoriety for a pledge being made to recite a rap song containing the N-word in front of a group of black students. In 2006, the Baylor Chapter was criticized for a party theme that reports say encouraged making stereotypes of blacks. Moreover, the fun and frivolity apparently does not stop at race-based shenanigans. A 2012 Rolling Stone article intimated that the Dartmouth College Chapter engaged in abusive hazing practices that included making pledges eat vomlets (eggs & vomit). In 2014, the National Organization eliminated pledging in an effort to discourage hazing.

But back to the racial animus; last week’s post touched upon the racial indignities foisted upon the black citizenry of Ferguson Missouri by a police department unfettered or constrained by anything approximating an impetus to rein in bigotry and racism. This new indictment of a college organization is simply yet another indication that ridiculously brazen racist behavioral practices are alive and well in America. And in this week, after the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” we can say with certainty, it thrives…”From Selma to Norman: Right Now!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com or http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

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Ferguson: The Department of Justice Speaks

It’s time to Break It Down!

Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, August 9, 2014. Wilson, 28 at the time, a white Ferguson police officer, shot Brown, an 18-year old black teen, after a struggle ensued following a disagreement about jaywalking. The specific circumstances of the encounter, which also involved Brown’s 22-year old friend, Dorian Johnson, were in dispute. Ultimately, after a several days of unrest, and months of tension within the Ferguson community, the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County, Robert P. McCulloch, made a sobering, but not surprising announcement. On November 24th, McCulloch revealed that the Grand Jury, empaneled to determine whether there was probable cause to charge Officer Wilson, found there was none.

There were a number of reasons why conventional wisdom held that the officer would not be charged. Among other things it had been argued that the prosecutor has inundated the Grand Jury with more information that was necessary, or than would normally be provided to such a panel. The Prosecuting Attorney has a history that many in the local community felt rendered him biased. A black perpetrator killed his father. Whether related or not, he has a history of negative findings against blacks involved with the St. Louis criminal justice system. In a community that is over 67% black, there were three black policemen on a force of over 50 officers. Moreover, the vast number of stops, use of force, arrests, fines, and citations were black. To be clear, the percentage in every case was much greater than that of blacks in the population, in some cases, 20 to 25% more.

In September, Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, initiated a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of Ferguson’s police department to study whether its officers routinely profiled blacks, or showed a pattern of excessive force. That investigation is complete and will be released today. Yesterday some preliminary findings were released. We know the study will say among other things, officers in Ferguson routinely violated the constitutional rights of the city’s residents, discriminated against African Americans, and applied racial stereotypes.

As noted, Ferguson is one-third white, or more directly stated above, 67% black. The Justice Department found that crime statistics over the past couple of years paint a compelling story. Parts of that message includes:

  • Blacks account for 85% of traffic stops
  • Blacks account for 90% of tickets issued
  • Blacks account for 93% of arrests
  • Blacks account for 95% of jaywalking arrests (which often hinge on police discretion)
  • Black driver were twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during vehicle stops, but 26% less likely to have contraband
  • Blacks account for 88% of persons against whom force was used

The picture the report paints is difficult to debate rationally. However, some officials, including a former Mayor, currently a candidate for a Council seat are doing just that. Brian Fletcher, the City’s Mayor from 2005 to 2011 complained that the DOJ appeared to be searching for “a scapegoat.” He argued further:

  • “The city population might be 67 percent black, but that is not necessarily a fair comparison for enforcement statistics. Many of the surrounding communities have African-American populations of more than 80 percent, and many of those people are drawn to greater shopping opportunities in Ferguson. As a result, Ferguson’s daily black population would be higher than the census reflects. “I don’t know that the DOJ took that into consideration, I don’t know how that proves bias.”

I am not sure how he uses this particular rationale to defend the statistic that finds black drivers twice as likely to be searched, but 26% less likely to be carrying contraband. Of course, I am confident he will give it the old college try.

It is important to note not everyone is so impervious to the data picture. Current Mayor, James Knowles III, who was among the officials briefed yesterday, said, “It was encouraging to me that there were discussions about how we might move forward together and amicably address these issues.” Let’s hear it for Mayor Knowles…Mr. Fletcher, not so much.

The racial disparity found in Ferguson policing was so stark that the DOJ concluded there was only one explanation:

The Ferguson Police Department was routinely violating the constitutional rights of its black residents.

Tomorrow’s report will cite violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, according to officials. Racial bias is so ingrained, the report said, that Ferguson officials circulated racist jokes on their government email accounts.

The report is based on six months of investigation, and provides a glimpse into the roots of the tensions that boiled over after Michael Brown was killed in August. The report describes a city in which police used force almost exclusively on blacks, and a place where blacks were regularly stopped without probable cause.

Moreover, despite former Mayor Fletcher’s push back on the data findings, racial bias was so thoroughly ingrained that Ferguson officials circulated racist jokes on their government email accounts. Two in particular, apparently written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials appear below:

One, from November 2008, said that Barack Obama could not be president for four years because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

Another, from May 2011, read: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”

The report will say that in Ferguson’s municipal court, blacks were less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a judge, far more likely to have a warrant issued in their cases and more likely to be arrested during traffic stops because of outstanding warrants.

The report will also say that Ferguson has a pattern of putting revenue over public safety, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal process protections, by collecting thousands of dollars in fines on those living below or near poverty. It notes further that since 2010, Ferguson courts have collected more than $442,000 for failure-to-appear fines, and that use of that charge was discontinued last year.

Federal investigators spent about 100 person days investigating the department, perused 35,000 pages of records, and interviewed city leaders as well as conducted hundreds of in-person or phone interviews with residents.

On December 1, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the federal government would spend $75 million on body cameras for law enforcement officers, as one of the measures taken in response to the shooting. Without question, the DOJ investigation and subsequent findings is about much more than the killing of Michael Brown. Yet, it is equally clear, the young man is a martyr for justice. Without his untimely demise, is unclear how much longer the majority of the Ferguson community would have suffered the indignities and injustices of a freewheeling police department that consistently treated blacks shabbily…at best. So, on this day, “Ferguson: The Department of Justice Speaks!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com or http://thesphinxofcharlotte.blogspot.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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