Betsy DeVos Punishes Students Defrauded By For-Profit Schools

In another signal that corporations and businesses in Trump’s America are going to be allowed to rape and pillage without restrictions, and in many cases with government assistance, a report by an Education Department inspector general reveals that committing fraud is an accepted and worthwhile endeavor in the for-profit education business.

On Monday past, an inspector general reported that with a for-profit education crusader, Betsy DeVos, and a for-profit “fraudulent college” operator, Donald Trump running the government,  the process of “canceling student loan debt of the people who have been systematically defrauded by for-profit schools” has come to a screeching halt.

DeVos will not implement rules that aided defrauded students by speeding up the debt cancellation process to stop interest from accruing and destroying students and their family’s credit. DeVos claims she can’t help students because she is still looking for a means of “redoing” the debt cancellation  process that still lets failed and cheating for-profit schools off the hook. Under DeVos, none of the defrauded students have had their debt canceled despite tens-of –thousands of legitimate claims for relief.

Spending 10 months “seeking a means of redoing” the debt-cancelation process is code for DeVos intent to do nothing to help Americans cheated by the people she champions as education’s salvation; for profit schools. DeVos said canceling the debts creates a cost to taxpayers she claims shouldn’t be responsible for helping students cheated by for profit schools. The concept of holding the for-profit schools responsible for “breaking the law” and defrauding “hundreds-of-thousands” of students is simply out of the question. This is Trump’s America now and the people who were defrauded by for-profit schools have to be penalized and pay the price for being defrauded; the for-profit schools get to keep their very substantial profits.

DeVos has gone beyond just foregoing an Obama-era rule to aid a specific group of students cheated by “Corinthian Colleges,” a for-profit outfit that finally collapsed in 2015 after several federal and state investigations into the widespread fraud that touched an untold number of students. There are other “failed schools” guilty of defrauding students that, combined with the Corinthian organization, cheated “hundreds-of-thousands of students” who are left with rapidly accruing interest and loan fees damaging their credit, according to the Education Department inspector general.

In fact, because of DeVos’ inaction,  the defrauded students and their families will “ultimately owe more on a denied discharge than if they had not asked for cancellation and simply continued making payments” for a worthless education, the inspector said. The big problem for the defrauded students is that because their “education” is for all intents and purposes worthless, their job prospects are non-existent making outrageous loan payments  nearly impossible. It is why the “cancelation process” was put in place to begin with and it is also why many states have been pushing the DeVos-Trump education syndicate to cancel the loans.

Attorneys general from several states are attempting to pressure DeVos to help the defrauded students they rightly say “cannot afford to repay often-large amounts because the ‘for-profit’ schools DeVos champions either didn’t  provide adequate training much less an education or a diploma.” The inspector general also reported finding nothing in the DeVos Education Department resembling an “information system” and complained that he was forced to “manually retrieve claims data.” That is a change from the previous administration’s efforts to help students cheated by for-profit schools.

During the Obama Administration the Education Department received 46,274 claims for “discharging defrauded students’ loans” and had approved 27,986 in a six month period. Since Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration, out of 25,991 applications, DeVos made sure none were discharged. The Inspector General reported that the entire debt cancellation process, no matter over death, fraud or disability, was brought to a halt.

The senior Democrat on the senate education committee, Senator Patty Murray (WA) said:

Hundreds of thousands of students were defrauded and cheated by predatory colleges that broke the law, but today’s report confirms Secretary DeVos tried to shirk her responsibility to these students and shut down the borrower-defense program, leaving them with nowhere to turn.”

This atrocity, and it is an atrocity, is a trend in the current administration that is not completely down to Trump or DeVos, although they are ultimately responsible for this particular abomination. Republicans as a party have demonstrated that they will go to great lengths to give special treatment to big, small and corporate businesses at the expense of the people whether it is eliminating regulations or failing to enforce rules that protect the people, or fund corporate tax cuts with tax hikes on the poor.

There is an easy solution to this particular issue but Republicans, Trump, or DeVos will never even consider putting the burden students are facing on the “predatory, for-profit colleges that broke the law by defrauding and cheating students.” And it is not necessarily that DeVos is “shirking her responsibility to cheated students;” she doesn’t consider the students her responsibility. She is responsible to the church, misogynists, bigots and corporations and if they defraud students the students have to be penalized again.

DeVos has shown throughout her time as the most unqualified member of team Trump that her responsibility is to anti-women men’s groups, anti-LGBTQ religious fanatics, for-profit evangelical madrassas and church-chartered schools; and of course predatory for-profit colleges. If that wasn’t the case she would at the least allow the existing process to cancel the defrauded students’ debts as it was intended; but that would not punish the students.

DeVos’ lack of action does send a powerful message to for-profit schools, corporations, and businesses in general that in Trump’s America they are free to defraud, damage and cheat Americans with impunity; punishment is reserved for the victims as is the typical Republican way.  In DeVos’ case, punishing defrauded students appears to be an integral part of her intent of using the Education Department to “advance the kingdom of god.”

Trump Proposal Allows Restaurants To Legally Steal From Employees

A very recent proposal from Trump’s Department of Labor should clarify once and for all that there is a concerted government-wide crusade to hand over all of the nation’s wealth to the rich and their corporations. The massive “wealth transfer” Republicans and Trump are pushing in what they call “tax reform” is a major part of the GOP’s “reverse Robin Hood” crusade because it does steal from the poor and gives to the rich. It is not actually direct theft, but it is a monumental transfer of wealth and services from the poor to the rich and corporations.  However, a hardly reported Labor Department proposal does literally take money away from low-wage workers and gives it directly to their employers.

Although the Department of Labor announced the rule change about ten days ago, it is crucial for the public to be aware and get active because the latest reverse Robin Hood proposal goes into effect in about 20 days; that is how long the public has to weigh in and comment on Trump legalizing theft from some of the lowest paid workers in America. And it is noteworthy that this particular theft, like the GOP’s tax reform, will benefit Trump personally as well as his thieving cohorts at the National Restaurant Association – “the other NRA.”

The latest act of robbing the poor is a Trump and the NRA-driven proposal rescinding an Obama-era rule that helped the lowest paid workers in America keep the pay their hard work earned. What Trump’s Labor Department is proposing is theft by corporate special interests and nothing else. There is no other way to frame a proposal that allows restaurant owners to seize tips that customers leave for the “wait staff” and keep it for themselves.

Most people know, or they should know, that the lowest paid workers in America are restaurant workers, and that is particularly true of “wait staff.

According to the Department of Labor:

A tipped employee engages in an occupation in which he or she customarily and regularly receives more than $30 per month in tips. An employer of a tipped employee is only required to pay $2.13 per hour in direct wages if that amount combined with the tips received at least equals the federal minimum wage.” (author bold)

The Federal Minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour and in any city in America it is a poverty wage; which is all this administration and Republican Congress will ever allow. Rescinding the current DOL law will ensure that restaurant owners can legally keep all “wait staff” at that minimum wage. It also means that restaurant owners can legally rob $6.1 billion from millions of restaurant employees despite the customers specifically intended the tips to go to servers, waiters or waitresses.

To be a bit more accurate, restaurant owners won’t literally be taking the money out of wait staff’s pockets; it is much worse than that. The new rule allows restaurant owners, not the wait staff, to “collect all tips left by patrons and do whatever they want with them regardless of what diners intended, without ever informing the diners.”

It is noteworthy that this assault on restaurant workers was lobbied heavily by the National Restaurant Association; that particularly nasty “NRA” has a very cozy relationship with Trump the hotel magnate and his “administration.” The idea of robbing from employees is not a new one for the NRA or Trump, so it is all but a foregone conclusion the legalized theft will be implemented. As Newsweek pointed out, the only question remaining is whether Trump’s Labor Secretary “will give the public enough information to have a fair chance to weigh in during the 30-day public comment period.

Based on what is “a bad policy that the administration is trying to hide behind a very sneaky process,” it is unlikely the public will be given anything in the form of information. There was, and is, precious little information or reporting that the DOL is on the verge of legalizing wage theft because the administration knows the public will not look fondly on another Trump “reverse Robin Hood” proposal even if they don’t know what it will cost the millions of workers it will adversely affect.

In spite of a law requiring it, the Trump Labor Department is rejecting the legal mandate that the proposed rule change requires estimates of the cost to the employees so the public can make informed comments about restaurant owners stealing from employees that are predominately female. The majority of the “owners” are not small mom and pop operations either; they are big corporate organizations including those like Trump’s hotels.

This is an abomination for the roughly 2.8 million people working as “wait staff” at a median wage of $19,900 annually as of the end of 2016. That is poverty wage, and it is the wage before Trump allows restaurant owners to rob what little “tips” servers, waiters, and waitresses are earning now. It is little wonder the Department of Labor is attempting to use stealth and subterfuge to get the proposal enacted without the public’s input during a comment period that very few Americans have heard about – by design of the National Restaurant Association and Trump. The NRA and Trump have been actively conspiring to cut restaurant employees wages, benefits and workplace protections since early in Trump’s tenure and it is a blatant “reverse Robin Hood” attack few Americans are aware of.

There is an effort to stop what Newsweek’s Christine Owens and Sharon Block call Trump wanting customers to pay restaurant owners for their meals and then tip the restaurant owners and not the people toiling to serve the diners. Over at Credo Action there is a handy time-saving way to comment on Trump’s proposal to legalize restaurant owners, including himself, effort to steal money intended for the underpaid staff serving their food.

Restaurant workers, particularly “wait staff,” are not only underpaid to the point they have to depend on customers’ tips to survive, they suffer a level of abuse few other occupations offer. This robbery is not Trump’s first foray into abusing the people that work in his hotels and restaurants, but it is, unlike ‘union-busting’ schemes, a direct and blatant theft of workers’ pay that he will profit from through his businesses. There isn’t much regular Americans can do to protest Trump’s dirty profiteering because he lives in the White House, but they can “weigh in” and comment on the Department of Labor website; something this author encourages everyone to do.

Alabama Senate Race Exposed America’s Extremism Plague

It has been interesting seeing the various commentaries about the stunning upset win in Alabama’s race for the Senate pitting a radical evangelical nut job against a former prosecutor and civil rights champion. Of course sane Americans, and some Republicans, likely breathed a sigh of relief that a deranged enemy of the United States Constitution will not get a taxpayer-funded trip to the Senate to lend his evangelical bona fides to “change Washington” into a theocracy. However, folks should hardly be celebrating much more than there are a few more decent Americans in Alabama than there are savage evangelical malcontents. The margin of victory informs that nearly half of Alabama’s voters are every bit as racist, religiously extreme, bigoted and un-American as the freak of nature they came close to sending to Washington.

The election results are not a commentary on the impending demise of extremism in Trump’s America as some have inferred. Believing otherwise is a very serious mistake and along the lines of thinking that Barack Obama’s first Presidential election victory in 2008 signaled an end of racism in America. The defeat of an evangelical hero like Roy Moore is going to incite the “fanatical faithful” to outrage like President Obama’s election incited the racists to come out of hiding and do their worst. Doug Jones’ victory is not going to do anything to curtail, much less stop, the raging religious extremists any more than President Obama’s wins signaled an end to racism.

Of course Mr. Jones victory is beyond “good news” for myriad reasons, but that good news is dependent on how Democrats maneuver in Trump’s America. Speaking of Trump, as other commenters have rightly noted, Doug Jones victory was as glaring a rebuke of Trump as it was a well-warranted slap in the face to his vile henchman Steve Bannon. It was also a temporary minor setback for the evangelical extremists who crawled out of their spiritual sewer with scriptural justifications to support a pervert pedophile; something they did in predictably large numbers that nearly propelled Moore to victory.

Remember, there were a significant number of Republican voters who “wrote in” a different candidate than Moore and those numbers were close to Mr. Jones’ margin of victory; that is really what should prevent Democrats from celebrating as if the nation has turned a corner on extremism. It hasn’t and the number of votes Moore received should sober up any victory-drunk Democrat because every one of those extremists who voted for Moore, like their cohorts nationwide, are not going away. If anything, they will regroup and come back with a vengeance as religious extremists are wont to do.

If America, and particularly Alabama, was not drowning in extremism, a piece of work like Roy Moore would have never been able to run as a viable candidate anywhere in the nation. Not only was Moore a viable candidate for Alabama Republicans, he garnered nearly half the votes in an election he would have lost by a huge margin in any “normal state.” Moore represents every extremist sect in America, and yet he still garnered the support of nearly half of Alabama voters because he is a racist, a bigot, an un-American, and a dangerous religious extremist.

Alabama extremists voted for Moore despite he was twice evicted from Alabama’s Supreme Court for rejecting the United States Constitution as the law of the land because it is not the Christian bible; almost half of Alabama voters wanted Moore to take that theocratic mindset to the Senate to “change Washington.

The same Republicans also voted for Moore despite his assertion that what the country needs is to “get rid of the Constitution’s Amendments after the Tenth” to eliminate many of the nation’s problems. In Moore’s mind, and apparently nearly half of Alabama voters, equal rights, women’s right to vote, abolition of slavery, non-white voting rights and the elimination of poll taxes pose a serious problem for America.  Even though Moore accepts the first Ten Amendments as “valid,” he concurs with former Alabama Senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the First Amendment’s “separation of church and state [clause] was never meant to separate god and government – this country was founded on god.”

Almost half of Alabama voters agree with Moore or they would never have supported sending him to “change Washington.” The evangelical extremists even went so far as claiming that it would be better to elect a pervert pedophile than a Democrat who supports a woman’s constitutional right to self-determination in making her own reproductive health choices. Without the unwavering evangelical extremist support, Moore would have never won the state’s primary or a second election to be Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court after being kicked off for being an evangelical extremist. That he came close to winning a Senate seat should give every American pause to reflect on the alarming number of Americans still supporting extremism.

There could hardly have been a more extreme candidate than Roy Moore and it is almost certain that any other slightly less extreme Republican would have cruised to victory; and that is not taking anything away from Doug Jones Herculean effort or his victory. Alabama is as dyed-in-the-wool Republican red as any state in the Union and without Moore’s extremist position on everything, it would have been an honest-to-dog miracle for any Democrat to win in Alabama. But Moore was, and is, the personification of extremism and that is what won him nearly half of the people’s vote; that is what is frightening because those evangelical extremists are not going away and they are nationwide.

Look, only demented evangelical fanatics and racists would support an un-American pervert like Roy Moore, and according to the voting numbers they make up about half the electorate in Alabama. Although it is true that a Democrat winning a Senate seat in Alabama, an uber-religious and traditionally extremely conservative state,  is phenomenal, it would be a giant mistake to believe the nation or Alabama has “turned the corner” on racism, bigotry and evangelical extremism because Moore lost a close election.

Remember, Roy Moore was as bad as a candidate as any fiction writer could concoct but he still  won half of the Alabama voters’ support; almost certainly on religious grounds. Although religious extremism was insufficient to defeat a Democrat in a deep red state, it should be a wake-up call for Democrats to start addressing what is one of greatest threats to this country and its Constitution; radical evangelical extremists. Those Alabama extremists came very close to sending one of their champions to the United States Senate to join a growing number GOP religious extremists with a view towards a theocracy. Roy Moore may be going away, but his radical religious base of support still exists and they infect the entire nation or Donald Trump would not be in the White House.

Senator-elect Doug Jones, and his brilliant campaign, deserve a world of credit for pulling out an unlikely victory; it was a victory for Alabama and a victory for America. However, any celebration should be tempered with the knowledge that the kind of racists, un-American, bigoted and religiously extreme voters who wanted Moore in the Senate are angry and laser-focused on revenge. Only an imbecile would think they are going away over the defeat of one of their own.

Armageddon Is Why Evangelicals Cheered Trump’s Jerusalem Speech

For normal people, the concept of sitting in safety and watching an event that wipes out most of the Earth’s population is certainly nothing to be excited about or celebrate. But no-one in their right mind has ever labeled evangelical fanatics anything remotely resembling normal people. On Friday during a Trump event and as a welcome to Florida, a Republican state senator gave an almost uneventful “introductory speech” for the Oval Office crook, and then he incited the audience to religious zeal with a statement that is beyond the pale, but typical for America’s theocrats.

The Florida Republican, Doug Broxson, represents Florida’s panhandle and he obviously knew his audience well because he gave them something horrific to cheer about and they delivered. Broxson said:

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I heard about Jerusalem — where the King of Kings [wild applause] where our soon coming King is coming back to Jerusalem, it is because President Trump declared Jerusalem to be capital of Israel.”

Ignoring the absurdity, audacity and danger of a foreigner “declaring” where a sovereign nation’s capital is, and the sovereign nation celebrating the intrusion into is “sovereignty,” there is a disturbing aspect of Broxson’s religious declaration.

There are millions of Trump supporters praying for, and highly anticipating, what a highly-respected theologian labeled the “climax of human history” in a globally devastating war. It doesn’t matter whether sane people believe the biblical prophesy of a global apocalypse or not, there are a very significant number of people within Trump’s administration, and likely all of his most fanatical evangelical supporters, who not only believe in “End Times” destruction, they want it to come tomorrow. And they will do whatever it takes to make it happen.

These people are inherently evil because they expect to be “raptured” away and given a “heavenly” seat to witness the extermination of humanity in a global god-war. That war, the dreaded “Armageddon,” will end in global conflagration that the Christian bible claims will occur around the time the faithful “rebuild the Temple” in Jerusalem. This is exactly why there were evangelical celebrations at Trump designating the city that is Israel’s new capital.

A little background on Broxson may shed some light on why he celebrated the idea of the new Israeli capital that leads to global devastation, the end of human history, and the extermination of human beings unwilling to bend to the will of the biblical god. And yes, even “regular Christians” have to admit that their holy book describes the end of non-compliant humanity at the biblical End Times.

Broxson attended a private Christian university with an embedded seminary located in Springfield, Missouri. The “Evangel University” is affiliated with the Assemblies of God Christian denomination that seriously believes End Times prophecy and looks forward to Jesus’ return to lay waste to the non-compliant in a globally devastating war.

Broxson is obviously not alone in his glee at Armageddon and that anticipation is widely shared among Trump’s religious supporters. That is particularly true for Trump’s most trusted “spiritual advisor” Robert Jeffress who believes the biblical “End Times” prophecy is the immutable word of god. Jeffress celebrated Trump “officially” designating Jerusalem as Israel’s new capital because it is where Jesus is rumored to return to wipe out evil. He said in a statement:

It is the place where Jesus, a Jew himself, was crucified and where he was resurrected. It is the place where he will set foot again on earth at his second coming.

According to theological scholar Dr. Diana Butler Bass, there is a reason, although a damn bizarre one, why recognizing Jerusalem is so crucially important to evangelicals lusting for “the apocalypse” and the end of the world. Ms. Bass said, and anyone familiar with the psychedelic book of Revelation is aware, that Trump’s announcement was important because “rebuilding the Temple” in Jerusalem “sparks the events of Revelation and the End Times.

Ms. Bass said:

Of all the possible theological dog-whistles to his evangelical base, this is the biggest. Trump is reminding them that he is carrying out God’s will to these Last Days. They’ve been waiting for this, praying for this. They want war in the Middle East. The Battle of Armageddon, at which time Jesus Christ will return to the Earth and vanquish all God’s enemies.”

It is important to note, and a point Bass warned was a real danger, is that for the evangelical fanatics supporting Trump, including Pence, Sessions,Ted Cruz, Roy Moore and countless other of the “frighteningly devout,”  Trump’s decision will hasten the “climax of history” and expedite their trip to proverbial Heaven to watch humanity’s destruction.

Professor Bass continued:

Trump is taking them there. To the promised judgment, to their sure victory. The righteous will be ushered to heaven; the reprobate will be banished to hellfire. People believe this. Really believe this. Have given their lives to these ideas, sing about them in their churches, evangelize others, teach them in Sunday schools. And, this morning, with the news of Jerusalem, these people are ecstatic. This is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. And Donald Trump is not only acting on a campaign promise, but enacting a theological one.

They believe that Donald Trump is God’s instrument to move us closer to the Rapture, the Judgment, and the End. Because to them, that’s actually the beginning — the beginning of their reward and heavenly bliss.

What matters is that Jesus comes back in Judgement. To these sorts of Christians, that Judgment is the only true peace. Everything is phony, deceptive, even evil. Millions of American Christians believe all this. Millions of Trump voters. Sacred history is unfolding right now because of Donald Trump and God. They’ve based their faith, their identity, their purpose, their eternal lives on these ideas. Trust me. There’s no arguing with any of it.”

It is likely that “regular Christians” are as appalled at cheering for alleged “planet-wide”  destruction only possible in a biblical fantasy story, as non-believers. But Trump’s evangelical fanatics are as far from being “regular Christians” as Earth is from the edge of the observable universe; so this is not an indictment of “all Christians” or “using a wide brush” to portray all Christians as fanatics.

Even the Israeli media outlet Haaretz recognized that Trump’s “Jerusalem declaration” was driven by “evangelical forces” as well a to please Netanyahu. Only an idiot believes the declaration had anything to do with establishing Middle East peace. It has everything to do with inciting Muslims to violence, possibly to initiate the End Times to “bring on Armageddon” like so many evangelicals yearn for.

At this point no American should be confused about why “the faithful” support  a consummate sinner like Trump and it is apparent it is not all about abortion. The religious right has even started an organization, “POTUS Shield” to protect what evangelicals claim “is the anointed by god” so he can fulfill god’s will and bring about the End Times. Trump fulfilled his godly role by designating Jerusalem as Israel’s new capital and sane humans await the impending violence in response to another American’s interference in the Middle East.

For Trump’s evangelical supporters, that “interference” and impending violence is what they pray for because they are certain it is what god wanted Trump had to do to force the biblical destruction they get to watch from on high. If America was a secular democracy and not in the clutches of a seriously demented group of evangelicals, this entire story would be amusing. But it is not funny and it is certainly nothing for civilized human beings to celebrate.

Image: Patheos

U.N. Poverty Inspector Appalled At Conditions in Trump’s America

Over the course of the past few years there was little reporting on the numerous times the United Nations has condemned the one-time “shining city on a hill” that is America. Although Americans believe they live in a veritable Utopia of prosperity and happiness, the U.N., and many of its various committees on poverty, human and civil rights, and democracy has regularly condemned the richest nation on the planet for its treatment of its own citizenry who are either subject to slave-wage conditions, homelessness, or dire poverty. And it is noteworthy that the target of their criticism is either specifically Republicans or their policies.

While touring the globe to investigate extreme poverty, a United Nations official said on Thursday that areas of Alabama are “suffering the most dire sewage disposal crisis of any place he has visited in a developed country”. Philip Alston is the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights who said after a visit to Alabama that:

It’s very uncommon in the First World. This is not a sight that one normally sees. I’d have to say that I haven’t seen this.

It is noteworthy to mention that the U.N. regards clean water and sewage a basic human right in any country, much less a “developed First World nation,” so this latest shameful revelation will contribute to the UN’s prior criticism of America’s disregard and mistreatment of its own citizens.

The area Mr. Alston was visiting was Alabama’s “Black Belt;” so named for its rich soil.  The Special Rapporteur witnessed an entire community where “raw sewage flows from homes through exposed pipes into open trenches and pits.” He also saw the water supply pipes with holes running “through the fetid area.”

The U.N. official went to Alabama specifically to see for himself how the wealthiest nation on Earth treats its poorest areas with a gross “lack of access to basic services that have plagued poor, mostly African American residents for generations.” Mr. Alston was also concerned about the poor’s struggles to enjoy even basic civil rights that America used to champion around the world.

The Special Rapporteur and his team are in the midst of a 15-day tour of the U.S. to gather information for a scheduled report on poverty and human rights abuses in America to be released next Spring. Mr. Alston took the time to speak with local residents and he told one resident that experiences “raw sewage bubbling up into his backyard” in an area where “residents often fall ill with ailments like E. Coli and hookworm” that is an atrocity to have to live in those conditions. Those conditions also included “unreliable electricity service” to accompany unreliable access to “clean drinking water that has not been tainted by raw sewage;” it is what the U.N. official said represents a “dereliction of duty.”

Mr. Alston made it clear that the U.N. is aware that the poor are living in subhuman conditions due to “the unwillingness of the government to help people with no access to basic services like reliable electricity, clean water and sewage management.” Alston said the purpose of his tour wasn’t to look for reasons to criticize America:

The hope is that we’ll bring attention to [these problems], just like we bring attention to people who are being tortured. There is a human right for people to live decently, and that means the government has an obligation to provide people with the essentials of life, which include power, water and sewage service. But if the government says, ‘oh no, we’re not going to do it,’ and leaves you to install very expensive septic tanks, that’s not how it should work.”

The sad fact of life is that is exactly how it is going to work going forward with Republicans and their corporate thugs running the government. There is a reason Republicans are handing over the wealth of the nation to the wealthy and corporations that goes beyond making them richer; they want to “shrink” the government to eliminate whatever services it provides to the people.

It is precisely what the trickle down effort in Kansas intended, and achieved, and it is why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Kansas Governor Sam Brownback “it’s what we want to do in Washington” when we control the government. And it is why Republicans are willing to keep Trump in the White House; to aid in “dismantling the administrative state;” or what regular people call “the government.” If there is no government, then there are no provisions or protections for the people. That is one of the main goals of Republicans and their money-machine the Koch brothers in “shrinking government;” get it to a size Republicans can “drown in a bathtub.” The impending  Republican tax giveaway to the rich is only the beginning.

Remember, besides adding trillions to the deficit and raising taxes on the poor and middle class, the GOP tax plan, coupled with the Heritage Foundation’s “skinny budget,” drastically slashes spending on every segment of government except the military industrial complex and “the Church.” It does not matter one iota what the United Nations says about “how it (government) should work” or its “obligation to provide the people with the essentials of life.

With a rubber stamp in the White House, Republicans are intent on starving the government to death to enrich the wealthy and corporations and the people be god-damned to Hell. For dog’s sake, if Republicans are taking away healthcare from children, seniors and the poor, there is no way they are going to meet their obligations and give people access to the “essentials of life” like clean water, adequate sewage management, or reliable electrical service.

It is worth noting that in past opinion pieces one thought Republicans would be humiliated, and Congress shamed, into taking action to correct the inequities plaguing America, but the opposite has proven true. The conditions will only get worse and it is not a coincidence that as Republicans gained greater control over the government and spending, the criticism from the United Nations human and civil rights watchdog(s) have increased in frequency and severity.

The UN report in the Spring will get exactly the same coverage from the main stream media as the other reports and condemnations against American civil and human rights abuses against its own citizens; little to none. And Republicans will react precisely as they have in the past and ramp up their Draconian efforts against their poorest constituents to further dirty Donald’s pledge to make America great –  for the filthy rich and their predatory corporations. And sadly, most of the same people who put Republicans in charge of dismantling the government will continue voting for them religiously because god, guns and fetuses.

Image: csheets.al.com

Trump Voters Are Not Allowed to Complain About the GOP Tax Plan

It is a normal human characteristic to have empathy when someone suffers due to circumstances beyond their control, but it is difficult to even care about a person who deliberately places themselves in a bad situation. Right now a fairly significant majority of Americans find themselves in what they know is bound to be a really bad situation that is only going to get worse. But the Trump and Republican voters who are weeping and gnashing their teeth have no one to blame but themselves. That being the case, they need to stop crying and embrace the horrors they gleefully subjected themselves and the rest of the population to – a Republican government.

The other day the Washington Post published an article about Republican voters in predominately Trump strongholds who were bemoaning the current Republican-controlled government and were specifically feeling betrayed over the GOP tax reform legislation. Sane people in America are outraged that these moronic Republican voters are crying about the rich and corporations getting very significant tax cuts while they are going to get nothing and likely will see a tax hike; never-mind everything else Republicans will take away to enrich the wealthy and corporations.

These idiots vote, consistently, for Republicans who have always advocated and pushed for tax cuts for the rich and corporations at the expense of the people. Republican voters don’t get to complain because they have not been “betrayed;” they are getting precisely what they reliably vote for every two years. That includes the dirty bigots who actually believed Trump was just like them; an “average hardworking” man who understands, and pledged to help, their plight. Of course their “plight” is having to live in a nation that allows equal rights for people of color, women, gays, and non-Christians. Trump supporters were not concerned about anything “economics” or taxes when they voted last year; they were afraid of Muslims, Mexicans, gays and women.

One Trump voter said he thought he had a president who understood the plight of the average worker. It will always be a mystery how a sane human being believes a man who flies in his own jet airliner to his own golf courses could understand “the average worker,” but Trump did fool a lot of people; including some Democrats “worried  sick about Hillary Clinton’s Goldman-Sachs speech.” The dumbfounded Trump supporter admitted that he still held out hope to see some personal benefit from the tax package, but he said reporting shows “too much about how the wealthy will ultimately benefit.”

The same man also doubted that corporations would invest their tax windfall in their businesses by hiring more workers or raising wages; he said they “are not in a caring mode.” Indeed, several of America’s largest corporations have already made it crystal clear they are not, in any universe, ever going to do anything with a tax windfall except keep it for themselves.

Many of those interviewed in Michigan said the tax plan seems “deliberately aimed at further dividing the wealthy from everyone else.” One thirty-year-old man said:

They’re not looking out for the middle class. The separation between the middle class and the upper class, it’s growing, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. . . . It’s easier to control people when they’re under your thumb.”

WaPo also reported that two traveling businessmen who are both longtime Republicans said they do not expect to benefit from the Republican tax cuts. They are cognizant of trickle down history and are certain, like any conscious American, that the tax cuts for corporations will never trickle down to them; and yet they are still Republican voters. When asked if Republican members of Congress or Trump cares about them, both of the business men just scoffed. It is noteworthy that the two men were from different areas of the country and were business travelers, so they were likely upper middle class income earners and still understand the tax reform legislation won’t help them; but they will still go vote for Republicans in the next election.

A 49-year-old auto industry worker and dyed-in-the-wool Republican who wrote in Ted Cruz for president said he does not expect to benefit under the Republican tax cut proposal. Like millions of other Americans, Ron Stephens is certain that any gains he might make with a nominally lower tax rate will be wiped out by losing other deductions that he usually takes. What is curious is whether or not that auto worker believes a Republican tax reform bill would be one iota different if Ted Cruz was president. It wouldn’t matter who is in the White House; Republicans have always pushed tax cuts for the rich and their base knows it. They don’t get to bitch and moan now that their champions are delivering on what they have been promising to do for decades when they control the entire government.

What is stunning, really, is that any American would think a Republican would ever do anything to help any people who aren’t filthy rich; especially the Republican base that is not in the upper echelon of income earners. It has, after all, been Republicans who consistently cry for more tax cuts for the rich and corporations and consistently gain seats in Congress and state legislatures. And they promise that the rich will let some of their wealth trickle down to the peasantry, and that corporations will create millions of high-paying jobs and raise wages for their current employees. Even the GOP base knows that will never happen and recent polling shows that is the case.

In a recent Quinnipiac survey conducted in November, 61 percent of Americans say the GOP tax reform plan mainly benefits the wealthy. Over half the people do not believe for a minute slashing corporate taxes will produce even one new job, and about half think it is a bad idea to cut corporate taxes at all. As the assistant director of the Quinnipiac organization, Tim Malloy noted;

The sentiment among Americans: the GOP tax plan is a great idea, if you are rich. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.”

The poll found that “less than 1 in 6 Americans expect their taxes to be reduced, while more than twice that many expect their taxes to go up.” Even among Republican voters, only a third expect to see any kind of tax reduction. It makes sense, then, that an October CBS News poll revealed that a tad over 70 percent of Americans “didn’t even think the tax bill should be a priority.” It is odd that the percentage is so high; especially after Trump and Republicans campaigned heavily on tax reform as their “highest priority.”

These Trump and Republican voters complaining is simply sickening. They knew what they were supporting and they really wanted to make America great again. This demonstrates two damning traits of both Trump and Republican voters; they are either stupider than anyone ever thought possible, or they are racists, bigoted, and religious or they would never have voted for Trump or any Republican. They are simpletons who cling to their bibles, guns, and Aryan-sensibilities with such ferocity they apparently didn’t hear Trump and Republicans pledge to do a major tax reform with particular attention to the needs of the rich and their corporations. The rest of the people who didn’t elect Republicans either heard the typical conservative message loud and clear or are cognizant that Republicans exist to enrich the wealthy and corporations; and always at the “average working” American’s expense.

The real abomination is that those same Trump and Republican voters complaining about their lot in life have put the great majority of Americans in the same bad situation they find themselves in. They are guilty as Hell of creating a Republican Congress and putting a lying crook in the White House to give the rich and corporations more wealth. It is telling that these crybabies don’t feel ashamed that they’ve unleashed a world of despair on the nation, and then have the temerity to cry about being “betrayed.”

The Americans who voted for Trump or a Republican have no right to ever complain because they were not betrayed and they are not being treated unfairly; they are being treated to precisely what they desperately wanted  and voted for last November – a Republican-controlled government. They can stop bitching and be the “real Americans” they claim to be and take the economic raping their hate-driven ignorance forced on everyone else except the rich.

 

Trump Contemplates Secret Spy Ring To Combat His Deep State Foes

Of all the unbelievable, but always confirmed, stories coming from Trump’s universe, a report by the Intercept would be inconceivable in any other era in American history; it is that bad. In fact, the story is right out of a thrift store spy novel and one wonders if that isn’t where the Trump cabal found the idea that should absolutely terrify Americans; if only because every aspect of it reeks of Trump’s aspirations of becoming a tyrannical dictator.

Most people who embrace conspiracy theories are either inherently paranoid or intrinsically stupid. It is why Donald Trump talking about the so-called “deep state conspiracy” throughout his brief tenure in the White House is almost normal for him; he is as paranoid an individual as he is obviously stupid. Trump claims that there is a shadow government made up of political officials and entire government departments and agencies working behind the scenes to undermine his administration and make him look stupid in the eyes of the world and the American people. No-one would even attempt make this absurdity up.

The Intercept reported that Trump is contemplating a super-secret spy agency unaffiliated with the United States government to get to the bottom of this “deep state” threat to his administration. Imagine the East German Stasi, Nazi Gestapo and SS, the Soviet Union’s KGB and secret police all combined into one “off the books” private spy agency reporting only to Trump and his CIA chief Mike Pompeo. And no, the CIA, FBI or any other of the 17 American intelligence agencies will not be allowed any access to, or knowledge of, Trump’s secret intelligence agency. And that includes the one and only Constitutional body with oversight of the Executive Branch, the House of Representatives.

The idea for an “off the books” spy agency beholden to no part of the government is the work of Blackwater founder Erik Prince. He is the brother of evangelical Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a loyal Trump contributor. Prince is joined by a retired CIA operative, and the man in the middle of the Iran-Contra scandal, Oliver North. North was brought in to “sell the effort” to whomever is part of the Trump camp allowed to know the “secret” and will help the private Trump “agency” to combat his “deep state enemies.”

When the proposal calls for being “off the books,” it means sidestepping official American intelligence agencies and reporting directly and only to Trump and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. One ‘former senior’ intelligence official privy to the secret plan told the Intercept that Trump’s CIA director, Pompeo, doesn’t trust the agency he was tapped to lead. So the paranoid fools want to created a secret “off the books” spy network to collect evidence against Trump’s deep state enemies that will not be shared with any of 17 official U.S. intelligence agencies; only Trump and Pompeo will see anything. According to the source:

Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him. It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books. The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president Trump and Pompeo directly.”

According to the Intercept article, Pence has been briefed on the plan, but a spokesperson said there was “no record of [Prince] ever having met with or briefed  Pence.”  Pence is as big a liar as Trump. So there is every reason to believe that yes, he did, meet with Prince who was a big Pence campaign contributor.

Both Prince and the ex-CIA officer denied any involvement with each other or a secret spy plan, but since it is “a secret” of course they would deny any involvement.  They are more than just acquaintances though, and have been publicly working together on privatizing the war in Afghanistan. It makes one source’s claim that “there is no doubt that Prince and Maguire were working together” entirely believable. There are also reports that the “individuals involved with the secret spy plans have held ‘secret meetings’ with potential donors in the Trump Hotel.” There was no word if Trump or any of his inner circle were involved in the meetings, but there is no reason to believe he would admit it if they were; he is a liar.

Apparently, like Trump, the ex-CIA official Maguire is “concerned” about “deep state operatives” ensconced in the intelligence community who are deliberately withholding information from Trump.

A source told the Intercept:

“[Maguire] said there were people inside the CIA who were failing to give  the presidentTrump the intelligence he needed.”

That part of the story sounds credible; in part because Trump has regularly demeaned, belittled, and offended the intelligence community and he has revealed confidential intelligence he should not have had access to; he can’t be trusted.

There is no telling if the truth about this frightening proposal will ever see the light of day; it is a big secret after all. But the story is more than plausible; it is highly probable that it is worse than what’s being reported and completely in line everything Trump has said over the course of his tenure in the White House. He has, in fact, called for some kind of agency to pursue his enemies in the government, and because the officials in the intelligence and justice department adhere to the law, he will welcome creating his own personal “off the book” and unaccountable private spies.

The idea of a secret, privately-funded spy network in opposition to the American intelligence community is terrifying enough, but that it will report directly to Trump and his lackey Pompeo should raise red flags for all Americans for one reason; Trump is paranoid and sees enemies everywhere.

Remember, the intent of the “secret spy” network is to “combat Trump’s enemies” within the United States government, and it will do its dirty work outside of the law and away from prying congressional, Justice Department and intelligence agencies’ eyes. It is a frightening prospect to unleash what will be a Trump secret police force on America, but that is precisely what a tyrannical dictator must do to “eliminate” their perceived enemies and wield absolute power.

SCOTUS Rejects NRA and Gun Fanatics’ Appeal

It is probably true that gun fanatics and the National Rifle Association were as pleased at Trump’s ascendancy to the White House as evangelical fanatics, racists, and the billionaire class. With a rubber stamp in the White House, Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, and another NRA advocate on the Supreme Court, the gun nuts and the NRA never expected to suffer another defeat late last week at the hands of the High Court.

There is such a dearth of anything remotely resembling good news in Trump’s America that it was refreshing to learn from the good folks at SCOTUSblog that the Supreme Court rejected hearing two separate appeals from gun advocates. It is likely that the High Court is cognizant of the two most recent mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas, and instead of being accused of having more blood on their ‘supreme’  hands, the Court steered clear of the gun debate for now and put off allowing more “weapons of war” on the streets.

One of the appeals sought to overturn a Maryland state ban on assault weapons, and the other attempted to overturn Florida’s ban on open carry firearms. What was noteworthy in both denials was that unlike a decision last June in a case denying an appeal to overturn a California ban on open carry “outside the home for self-defense,” the High Court’s denials “were not accompanied by any public comments from the Justices.” In that June denial, Justices Clarence Thomas and NRA champion Neil Gorsuch lashed out at California’s open carry ban as a flagrant attack on the Second Amendment.

In the Maryland case, Kolbe v. Hogan, several Second Amendment groups, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), challenged the right of the Maryland state legislature to ban “semi-automatic rifles and large capacity magazines.” The bans were enacted in the wake of the 2012 massacre of 20 little children and six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. It is noteworthy the 5 and 6 year old children and their adult teachers were slaughtered with “the most popular semi-automatic rifle” among Maryland gun extremists.

Maryland gun lovers, gun sellers and organizations supported by the NRA challenged the ban on the grounds that assault weapons like those used in the Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and Texas massacres “are the most popular semi-automatic rifles for self-defense.” It is noteworthy that the ban also included “detachable magazines” that have a capacity of more than 10 rounds; what the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals accurately labeled are indisputably “weapons of war.”

In that ruling, Appellate Judge Robert King wrote for the majority:

We have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage. Both before and after Newtown, similar military-style rifles and detachable magazines have been used to perpetrate mass shootings in places whose names have become synonymous with the slaughters that occurred there.

We are convinced that the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are among those arms that are ‘like’ ‘M-16 rifles’ — ‘weapons that are most useful in military service’ — which the Heller Court singled out as being beyond the Second Amendment’s reach.”

The Fourth Circuit ruling also noted that four other federal courts have upheld similar bans in four other states based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in “Heller.” They certainly didn’t dare say that allowing more battlefield weapons on the streets was an idiotic idea; even federal appellate judges comprehend there is only so far they are permitted to challenge the NRA’s authority and agenda without harsh repercussions.

In the  2008 Supreme Court ruling in “Heller” the justices ruled specifically that states and cities were legally able to “ban the M-16 rifle, a military version of the AR-15;” the battlefield gun NRA-supporters claim is a life-and-death necessity in the home if they are equipped with detachable high-capacity magazines like those used in the theatre of war. Maybe conditions and interpersonal relationships in gun fanatics’ homes are so contentious that it feels like a battlefield, but a 12-gauge or Glock should be more than sufficient for self-defense in the home.

The gun advocates were certain the NRA-friendly conservatives on the High Court would rule in their favor, so they argued that the Maryland legislature acted unfairly. Their argument also suggested the Maryland legislature and Fourth Circuit Appeals Court had disregarded the safety and lives of “law-abiding citizens” in their homes. They stated:

Maryland has banned the most popular semiautomatic rifles and magazines — arms that are indisputably in common use for self-defense — from the homes of law-abiding citizens.”

It is noteworthy that those semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines are also indisputably the most popular and commonly used weapons to commit mass murders. A weapon’s popularity among gun fanatics and mass murderers is no reason to allow even one more in the population.

In the second case, Norman v. Florida, a man challenged the state’s ban on open carry in public. Florida allows “concealed carry” in public, but that doesn’t allow gun advocates to show off their personal  “firepower” to impress fellow Floridians in public places.

The Florida case stemmed from the 2012  arrest of a man, Dale Lee Norman, for walking around in public with a sidearm on his hip like a Wild West gunslinger. As Bloomberg News noted, the state of Florida permits any resident to carry around “a licensed handgun outside the home,” but those guns have to be concealed. Florida state officials told the High Court that Florida, South Carolina and Illinois are the only states in the nation that “allow carrying concealed weapons in public,” but bans gun fanatics from showing off those weapons. If there is one thing gun fanatics seem to enjoy more than owning “weapons,” it is carrying them openly to show they are “real Americans.”

Although the High Court denying appeals that challenged sane gun safety laws is good news, it may be short-lived depending on how soon the next mass shooting occurs. Gun proliferation advocates are not going to give up so easily and Republicans in the House are currently pushing more gun legislation written by the NRA.

The current Second Amendment legislation makes it legal for gun enthusiasts to carry their concealed weapons across state lines without restrictions from states banning concealed or open carry. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) lambasted Republicans for “doing the bidding” of the NRA that designated making universal concealed carry its highest legislative priority in Trump’s America. Ms. Pelosi said:

Two months after two of the most deadly shootings in modern American history, Republicans are brazenly moving to hand the NRA the biggest item on its Christmas wish list.”

Ms. Pelosi is right, of course, but she is no more surprised at Republican pandering to the NRA than any other semi-conscious American. In the same way Republicans exist to serve the financial, religious, and fossil fuel sectors at the expense of the people’s welfare, they will move the proverbial “heaven and Earth” to aid the NRA put more guns on the streets. There is no doubt whatsoever the Republican “gun proliferation” legislation will pass with votes to spare and set the stage for the National Rifle Association’s likely next “top legislative priority;” a federal law making weapons of war and high-capacity magazines legal in all public places to supersede sane city and state laws banning assault weapons.

Americans shouldn’t celebrate this minor setback to the NRA or gun proliferation advocates for very long, if at all. Remember, Republicans own the government lock, stock, and barrel and barring an increase in the frequency of mass shootings in America, they will unleash more weapons of war on America. And the conservative Supreme Court will duly serve their NRA masters and rule that the gun lobby is a person with rights protected under the First and Second Amendments. If anyone doesn’t believe it, consider the conservative court has already ruled in Hobby Lobby that birth control pills are abortions, and in Citizens United that multi-national corporations are people with constitutional rights. This is a new America and nothing is out of bounds if it serves the interests of the people buying Republican votes.

Don’t Blame Trump – Republicans Are Destroying America

There is a misconception among many Americans that the country is being rapidly dismantled from within and doled out to a few special interests because Donald Trump is in the White House. It is also erroneous to believe America is being radically transformed into something unrecognizable because a reality show host is setting domestic policy and a legislative agenda, and signing executive orders only his base believes are inspired by god. While it is true Trump is complicit in the impending and systematic  demise of America as it existed for 80 or so years, he is nothing more than a very convenient distraction, and a clueless rubber-stamp for the conservative movement’s evil machinations.

It is noteworthy that no small number of political opinion writers predicted the Republicans would do precisely what they are currently doing when they owned the government; only to be mocked as fear and conspiracy mongers. It turns out those pundits and opinion writers were spot on and not because they were prophets, but because they saw what the Koch brothers and their ilk demanded from Republicans sworn to do their bidding.

Everything happening in Washington, from tax reform to privatization to theocratization to deconstructing the federal government is a decades-long dream of America’s conservative oligarchs and it doesn’t matter which Republican is in the White House; a Republican majority in Congress guaranteed the current dismantling of the nation. In fact, dirty Donald Trump is so insignificant to the deconstruction of America that it will not be surprising when Republicans throw Trump to the impeachment police the instant they realize his usefulness as a distraction is unnecessary or too costly.

It is beyond refute that everything Republicans are doing since Trump’s poorly attended inauguration have been in the works long before Trump came on the scene. It is why Mike ‘preacher’ Pence works closely with and depends on the Heritage Foundation to provide a framework for “his” domestic policy reforms. Heritage has been instrumental in providing Pence and Trump with a harsh budget and current tax reform for the rich, as well as nominating blatantly partisan federal judges. Add to those horrors the Heritage Foundation was instrumental in selecting Trump’s cabinet and agency heads who are determined to dismantle those agencies and departments before handing control of the government over to special interests.

Trump is a bungling imbecile on his best day, but he is also too lazy and too stupid to have done the necessary research into which cabinet nominees were best suited to do the theocratic, corporate, fossil fuel and financial sector’s bidding; and why should he? The Heritage Foundation and a couple of special interest groups already had a wish list prepared to serve the needs of the corporate, theocratic, fossil fuel and financial sectors with a view towards destroying them from within . As Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman noted, this assault on America “is not a story about Donald Trump, bad as he is. The rot pervades the whole Republican Party.”

That rot has existed for decades, by the way, and the tax giveaway to the rich and corporations is just the beginning of the end of the country as most Americans know it. And it is worth pointing out that within that “tax reform” legislation are extra gifts to the Koch brothers that begin taking apart social safety nets such as Medicaid and Medicare as well as public education. And there is a special gift to the evangelical movement that has nothing whatsoever to do with tax reform and everything to do with setting a federal legal precedent necessary to completely eliminate the concept of women’s reproductive rights.  It’s a plan that the great majority of Americans are completely unaware of and was contrived in the 1970’s while Donald Trump was “fighting his own Vietnam trying to avoid contracting sexually-transmitted diseases because women’s vaginas are landmines.

Everything happening to America right now, and will continue unabated until they finish, are long-sought-after conservative movement goals and have nothing to do with Trump. In fact, even if Trump is thrown out of office, there are any number of successors who will toe the Republican line and do exactly what the “movement” orders.

Most of the conservative movement’s orders will center around ending “pillars of the safety net” created in the 1930’s (New Deal) to aid and protect the American people from fascist corporate assaults. The “movement’” has attempted to dismantle, and eliminate, such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, minimum wage, Medicare and Medicaid, workplace safety standards with as much fanaticism as they have attacked clean water, air and safe medicine standards. Now that they have complete control of the government, all of those programs are being targeted along with myriad assaults on anything the rich and corporations believe is either a burden to their profits, or belong to them because it means more wealth. Look at anything this administration is doing and it is glaringly apparent its raison d’être is handing control of the nation over to a nasty un-American cabal of special interests.

Right now there is a world of warranted attention on the GOP’s tax giveaway to the rich and corporations, but it is all in vain. Although Trump will benefit as much as any other member of the wealthy elite, and despite his claim that the tax cuts will really hurt him, it is something Republicans planned no matter who was president, Republican or Democrat. Now they have a Republican rubber stamp and it doesn’t matter what the rubber stamp’s name is, the trickle down attack was always the plan.

In fact, three years ago while Kansas’ economy was dying due to Governor Sam Brownback’s trickle down tax cuts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Brownback it was exactly what Republicans wanted to do in Washington when they controlled Congress and the White House. The only difference between Brownback’s tax cut disaster is the level of severity; Republicans included unrealistic cuts in the current federal “trickle down reform” that actually raise taxes on the poor. The results of the federal reforms will be significantly more severe than those that decimated Kansas, but they were created to serve the exact same purposes; enrich the wealthy, punish the poor, and shrink the government into oblivion by starving it of revenue.

Look, no matter how bad Trump is, and he is admittedly as bad as they come, he is not driving the Republicans’ assault on the nation and it is a monumental mistake to even pretend that’s the case. The blame for the attack on America and the government that has somewhat protected the citizens for over eighty years belongs to Republicans devoted to the libertarian Koch brothers. Everything Republicans are planning to do to the nation, from assaulting social programs to privatizing the government to wiping out any form of regulatory oversight make up the policy proposals and dream agenda of Charles Koch’s campaign for the vice presidency in 1980 as a libertarian. Suffice it to say, the Kochs demand the abolition of the entire federal government and anything remotely related to providing for the “general welfare of the people.” The Heritage Foundation and Republicans are of the same mind and it is why they provided Trump with the personnel to dismantle every federal agency and department from within.

It is noteworthy to remind anyone who thinks Trump is running domestic policy that he told prospective vice presidential candidates that in his administration they would run domestic and foreign policy giving Trump time to focus on being CEO of making America great. It is safe to say that Pence isn’t running domestic policy unilaterally. He is too focused on making America an evangelical theocracy to concern himself with tax reform, social program cuts, or government privatization; the Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation are running domestic policy and Republicans in Congress are, and will continue, executing their agenda. Paul Ryan actually said now that Republicans are close to raping the people with “tax reform,” they will shift their focus to making Draconian spending cuts concurrently with the planned major cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, and supplemental nutrition programs.

Americans have no idea how much the nation is going to change, for the worse, now that Republicans control the country. Any program created since the New Deal that served the interests of the people, whether social programs, workplace protections, medical safety standards, financial regulations or environmental protections are going to be assaulted with a view towards abolishment. Everything Republicans in the states have lusted after, such as turning over National Parks, protected wilderness areas, national monuments and public land to corporations is already in the works.

Republicans have dreamed of privatizing the government and agencies like the U.S. Postal Service, public education including higher education, public transportation, the prison system, and public health agencies and they are all currently under assault. Tragically, there is nothing whatsoever anyone can do to stop them. It is worth noting that everything that Republicans and Trump want to do are highly unpopular and they know it; but they also know there is no-one with authority to stop them, including the electorate.

Anyone who believes getting Trump out of the White House will change the way Republicans are governing is a fool. The Republicans’ agenda has not changed in decades and now that they own the government, it doesn’t matter who lives in the White House. They will take America apart and give the wealth of the nation to the rich and corporations with or without Trump; they could not care less who signs the nation’s death warrant, so stop blaming Trump and focus on the existential danger to America; the Republican Party.

 

Religious Leaders Arrested For Protesting Republicans’ Tax Bill

In a new low, even in Trump’s America, a group of faith leaders representing every major religion showed up at the Senate to protest the Republican tax reform legislation and for all their godly effort they were detained, handcuffed, and arrested – while they were praying.

It isn’t often that organized religious leaders join forces in opposition to Republicans, but in another sign the GOP’s tax reform giveaway to corporations and the ultra-wealthy is highly unpopular, another group of “faith leaders” joined a chorus of criticism against the Republicans. One thing that is universal in the great majority of religions is the idea of protecting the poor and the vulnerable, it was a major theme of Jesus Christ’s teaching and something ‘religious” Republicans vehemently oppose as un-American.

On Thursday, a group “faith advocates” gathered to protest the GOP legislation at the Hart Senate building. The head of a Christian social justice group “Sojourners,” Jim Wallis was joined by Barbara Williams Skinner of the National African American Clergy Network and a large group of clergy to pray and condemn “unjust rulers” using religious ideology right from the scriptures. The theme of the criticism was that the “bill is an assault on the poor and vulnerable” the multi-denominational clergy “are sworn to protect.”

Mr. Wallis actually quoted a passage from the GOP’s favorite part of the Christian bible, the Old Testament, that fairly describes what Republicans are attempting to do to the American people who aren’t corporations or members of the one percent. Wallis recited Isaiah 10:1 saying:

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people.”

Police waited until after several other members of the clergy spoke out against the tax bill and then “detained, handcuffed, and escorted them away while they prayed.”  So much for the GOP’s high regard for “religious freedom.”

The previous day a group of “more than 2,400 faith leaders” representing Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist and many other “faith traditions” signed a letter to Republican leaders in the Senate slamming the bill as “unjust.” In fact, the “clergy” listed several issues they opposed with special emphasis on how it was created to “disproportionately benefit the wealthy,’ explode the deficit and increase the number of uninsured Americans by millions.” The letter read, in part:

As people of faith, we view decisions about tax policy and the federal budget as moral decisions. Simply put, this proposed legislation is fundamentally unjust. If it becomes law, it will result in harmful consequences for those most needing support so as to benefit high-income earners and big corporations.”

Several high-profile religious organizations, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and surprisingly, even the president of the National Association of Evangelicals joined the CEO of Catholic Charities USA and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to condemn the cruel bill. The National Council of Churches summed up briefly why a majority of Americans, whether they are religious or not, oppose the GOP’s tax reform bill:

The tax bills currently before the US Congress are designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer; and add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. These tax plans cannot be biblically defended.”

The tax bills cannot be “fiscally defended” either; but that isn’t stopping the Republican march towards transferring the treasury to corporations and the wealthy and burden the poor and middle class in the process. It is noteworthy to remind the clergy that their bible has no place in whether a tax plan can be defended; that theocratic remark ruined whatever positive “optics” the group hoped to shine on their worthy effort.

Now, although the faith leaders coming together to oppose this tax reform abomination is a kind gesture, as was the same group’s opposition to Trump’s immigration ban, repeal of DACA, and attempt at ending the Affordable Care Act, it is only a gesture and the religious leaders know it. The question a majority of those leaders have to answer before they will be taken seriously is why do they predominately support Republicans when they are well aware this particular “unjust” tax plan is the same as every other “unjust” Republican tax plan.

Without the reliable religious vote, Republicans would not control the House or the Senate or a growing majority of state legislatures. The only one reason the faithful support Republicans is because they pander to every faith and denomination that opposes women’s right to make their own reproductive choices. A fair number of the religious leaders condemning the Republican tax scam were also instrumental in aiding those same Republicans attack women’s rights over using birth control.

It is quite troublesome for a secular humanist to give much credence to some of these religious leaders because most of them know their efforts helped give Republicans control of Congress; all in a religious crusade to control women because doing so is “biblically defensible.” However, it is refreshing  to see Republicans being assailed by their staunchest supporters for a change; not that it matters to Republicans who no doubt had some input in having the protestors arrested while they were praying for the wrong issue.