Reform Discussion

Photo courtesy of Trump campaign.

President Trump claims that he is about the smartest man on earth who went to the “best” educational institutions. The Republican leadership in Congress claims to be smart, worldly people who can and will lead our country in the right direction. These claims do not in any way explain the failure of the president and the leaders in Congress to understand the most basic ideas or words in the English language. The most obvious example of that is their clear and repeated misuse of the word “REFORM”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines reform as follows:

A. To change into an improved form or condition

B. To amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses

C. To put an end to (an evil) by enforcing or introducing a better method or course of action.

Why do President Trump and the GOP want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care)? In order to “REFORM” health care delivery in this country, or so they say. Every group who has looked at the Republican proposals from any side has said that these REFORMS will make health insurance beyond the reach of millions of people who have it now. According to the bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the working poor, children, sick people and the elderly will be especially hard hit. How, exactly, does that make things better? What faults or abuses will be removed by these actions? I guess this is a reform if refusing to help the disadvantaged among us (many of whom have worked hard all of their lives) is your idea of improving things. I guess those who would call this REFORM think people who did tough physical labor until they were in their 50s or 60s when their backs, legs or shoulders gave out don’t deserve a thing. And neither do their families. If you believe that, this is, indeed a “REFORM”.

Having been unable to convince 50 United States senators that this REFORM was a good idea, President Trump decided to refuse to fund the subsidies that make it possible for millions of Americans to pay their deductibles and co-pays. The people who study the health insurance market say not only will millions of Americans be without coverage, this action is likely to spark a huge premium increase across the board. After decades of fighting with insurance companies on behalf of ordinary citizens, I do not trust most of them at all. If this action just creates a justification for insurance companies to profiteer, how is facilitating that act any kind of improvement of our situation? How does this meet the most strained definition of REFORM?

Trump claims that the health care changes he wants failed because of only one or two votes in the Senate. Wrong. They failed because there were 52 U.S. senators who refused to go along with his REFORM that would have left millions of Americans without insurance.

President Trump then moved right along to propose a REFORM of the income tax system. How does that proposed REFORM work? The first thing President Trump wanted to do was to raise the lowest earners’ tax bills by 20 percent. Whoa, I hear you call, the lowest rate is only going up 2 percent. That is correct. The rate is going up 2 percent, but tax liability will go up by 20 percent.

Here is how it works. If you pay taxes at the rate of 10 percent (the current lowest rate) and you are taxed on $5,000, your tax bill is $500. At 12 percent (the proposed new rate), the tax would be $600, a 20 percent increase in the amount owed. One hundred dollars may not be much for some people, but it is a big deal for someone trying to feed a family on minimum wage. It clearly does not make any difference to President Trump or his family. But those are the people who will make out like bandits due to President Trump’s so-called REFORM.

Now that it seems clear that President Trump’s tax proposal is going nowhere, the Republicans in the House and the Senate have each come up with competing tax REFORMS, both of which have a common goal: tax the bejesus out of the lowest people on the tax totem pole and pass the benefit of that along to the people at the very top of the income ladder. Why? Because the people at the top of our economic system write big checks to the campaigns of those who do their bidding. It is a great deal for the fat cats: write a check for $100,000 to a political campaign and get a tax break of $1,000,000. The GOP calls this REFORM. I call it bribery. It certainly does not make things better, at least not for anyone who is not already very, very rich.

But the real problem is that some people keep assuming that President Trump is trying to make things better. As time goes by, that assumption gains less and less credibility. Why would someone who is trying to improve our position in the world insist on calling the dictator of North Korea – who has his own nuclear button – insulting names? Little Rocket Man? Give me a break. That kind of name-calling ended by the seventh grade at Yreka Elementary School.

Why does President Trump refuse to accept the advice of his battle-hardened team of generals with respect to Iran? We are dealing with a very unusual situation in that historically, military leaders want to go to war and complain that civilian leaders hold them back. President Harry Truman’s beef with General Douglas McArthur is a classic example. McArthur was willing to risk war with China and Russia to invade North Korea. Truman said no. Now Trump appears to be ignoring his military advisers and his Secretary of State to do brinkmanship in Korea and Iran.

If he drops a big enough bomb on North Korea to disable its military, the radiation and fallout from that bomb will poison, depending on wind direction, large areas of South Korea, China, and even Japan. Frankly, the West Coast of the United States would not be a health spa either. A hydrogen bomb exploded in the atmosphere (which is what it would take to do in North Korea) would be a huge injection of poison into the atmosphere of our planet.

There is no doubt that there is room for reform in our health care system, our tax system and many other things in our society; indeed, in our world. But we cannot expect reform from an egotistical loudmouth, nor can we expect it from a legislative system that has largely been corrupted by an unlimited influx of money.

Dugan Barr
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967, primarily in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. He can be reached at Barr & Mudford, 1824 Court St., Redding, 243-8008, or dugan@ca-lawyer.com.
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23 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike says:

    Great piece Mr. Barr.

  2. Avatar conservative says:

    Conservatives argue that pro growth tax reform could add 1% to the annual GDP growth rate. I think it will pass and voters will have three years to see the effects. It is a lot like the ACA, too complex to model.

    The ACA cost the Democrats the House, Senate, White House and Supreme Court. If pro growth tax reform fails to deliver, it could be an opportunity for the Democrats.

    I would prefer to see a series of small tax and healthcare reforms every few years rather than grand reforms.
    .I don’t agree with everything in this slide set. https://piie.com/system/files/documents/furman20171103ppt.pdf
    I hope there will be changes over the next decade in that direction.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Conservatives have twice in recent decades argued for “tax reform” (huge tax cuts primarily for the wealthy) so as to enjoy the theoretical economy-goosing results, including “trickle-down” benefits for the rest of America. The result has been a massive accumulation of debt, and a reduction in the size and share of the nation’s wealth for the middle class. The last cycle of tax-cut stimulation ended with the biggest economic crash since the Great Depression—many who were at the end of their working lives will never recover.

      It’s funny, too, that the lowest-hanging fruit that the GOP had in its reach was tax reform, but they’re blowing that, too. At a time when economic growth isn’t really a problem that needs fixing, the “tax reform” they’re trying to sell is transparently just a money grab for the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, and they’re going to fall on their collective face once again.

      There is good news. White college-educated males—who supported Trump largely on the theory that Washington D.C.’s etch-a-sketch needed to be shaken vigorously—have seen what he’s all about and are saying: “Enough of this clown and his three-ring circus.” They’re turning on him more than any other cohort. The GOP can’t win without that cohort.

  3. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    Great column. I think Trump’s desire for war is born of desperation—he so badly wants to be seen as decisive and powerful: Our Greatest Leader. Instead, he’s widely viewed as a buffoon. He sees war as an opportunity to hit the reset button. Given that he seems so often to be incoherent and unhinged, it’s no surprise that our allies are reportedly starting to ask probing questions about just how free he is to launch a nuclear attack. Nor is it surprising that his Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense have reportedly had discussions about what to do if Trump suddenly lurches for the brown suitcase with the big red button inside.

    My only beef with this column is that the picture of Trump is probably the most flattering in existence. 😉

    • I was going to use your favorite photo of Trump that you requested for your column, but we published your column fairly recently, and I didn’t want readers to mistakenly think they’d already read this piece.

  4. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Nice write up!….what people are forgetting is his Pathology! He is acting out his Pathology perfectly…he is playing his role in this Drama perfectly…..and now he has or wants to put an RX guy in charge of Health and Human Services!

    Any guess where RX prices are going?

    I think at this point….it might be Much Quicker to ask….what has he told the Truth about in the last year?

    https://other98.com/alex-azar-insulin-trump/

  5. Avatar Common Sense says:

    How can the current Tax Proposal be labeled “Conservative” when it adds 1.4 Trillion to the debt???

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2017/11/13/how-gop-tax-plan-would-ruin-retirees-underinsured/#14eeb72a60ad

  6. Avatar Mary H says:

    Thank you for speaking the truth Mr Barr

    • Avatar trek says:

      I myself wouldn’t call it truth as in fact. There’s a whole lot of why’s, what’s and if’s in Mr. Barr’s opinion and little fact. I would only call fact as the majority writers here on aNewsCafe do not care for our POTUS Mr. Trump but it was a good read.

      • Avatar Gary Tull says:

        What’s not truthful and/or factual, trek?
        At this point in Trump’s presidency, I’m certain a strong majority of mid-class American wage earners (active and retired) would wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Dugan Barr’s statements here, myself included.

        • Avatar trek says:

          @ Gary, the definition of “reform” is factual. I’m only saying the author assumes a lot in what he believes to be true. Reminds me of my favorite movie, “Something’s Gotta Give” when Jack Nicholson (Harry) says “I have never lied to you. I have always told you some version of the truth.”

  7. Avatar Connie Koch says:

    Great article! Please pass this on to Doug LaMalfa who desperately needs a HUGE wake up call when it comes to working for his constituents!

    Thank you for your insightful words a getting the facts out there!

    • Dugan Barr Dugan Barr says:

      So far as Mr. LaMalfa is concerned, I am reminded of the character in Pogo (there I go, dating myself) who said, “I would write a letter to my Congressman, if only he could read.” If it does not involve rice, irrigation or orders from Republican bosses, a letter to Mr. LaMalfa might as well be in A long lost code.

  8. Avatar Tim says:

    It is ridiculous to lower taxes when we have $20 Trillion in nominal debt (plus another $100+ trillion in unfunded Social Security/Medcare liabilities) against just $18.6 Trillion in GDP and $3 Trillion in total federal tax revenue. So the tax cut is idiotic on face value unless you have strong evidence the economy will speed up enough to fill in the revenue shortfall (evidence we don’t have).

    Still, it would be perfectly fair & reasonable to raise taxes on the bottom 20% — they pay almost nothing (net) now:

    Congressional Budget Office numbers for tax year 2010:
    Bottom 20% earned an average $24,100 and paid $400 in federal taxes.
    Next 20% earned an average $44,200 and paid $3,200 in taxes.
    Middle 20% earned an average $65,400 and paid $7,500 in federal taxes.
    Next 20% earned $95,500 and paid $14,900 in federal taxes.
    Top 20% earned an average $239,100 and paid $57,300 in federal taxes.

    But because that 20% earn so little, increasing taxes on them makes almost zero difference in tax revenue (that 20% pay less than 0.5% of all taxes, so doubling their taxes would not move the needle).

    But it is funny to hear SJWs talk about the rich not paying their fair share. Everyone’s fair share of federal taxes is $16,660. If you’re not paying that much in federal taxes, you should thank the 1% for picking up your shortfall…

    What faults or abuses would be fixed by removing Obamacare? The fact that its foundation is unworkable. Insurance is meant to cover large, infrequent expenses that happen mostly at random to a small number of people. It is not the proper foundation for expensive ongoing service. Furthermore, it is beyond idiotic to concurrently say:

    a) Everyone is entitled to xyz commodity
    b) Providers of xyz commodity are free to set their own prices

    …which is precisely what Obamacare does to drug companies. Obviously everyone selling xyz commodity will just keep jacking up the prices. If competition prevents price increases, they will merge and eliminate competition (or slightly improve xyz commodity and patent the “new” product).

    Finally, it is stupid to insist on forcing employers to shoulder the burden of employee healthcare, especially when those employers must freely compete in a global economy against employers in 3rd world countries providing no benefits, and employers in developed countries with state-provided benefits. If healthcare is a right (which I don’t stipulate), the government should provide it — not employers.

  9. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    Tim says, “Still, it would be perfectly fair & reasonable to raise taxes on the bottom 20% — they pay almost nothing (net) now…”

    I often see this argument in just this form, as if federal taxes are the only taxes. I know Tim’s use of “they pay almost nothing” is just shorthand, but it’s a dangerous type of shorthand. The GOP peddles this as disinformation, knowing full well that the bottom 20% pays a high proportion of their income in other types of taxes (sales tax, fees, etc.) that they already have a hard time affording. And whenever a GOP federal tax cut proposal comes along, lurking in the wings are the compensatory fee increases that disproportionately affect those who can least afford them.

    It’s extremely cynical, because the wealthiest Republicans know that there are millions upon millions of us and fewer of them, so small taxes on fees on us won’t hurt much individually if they’re spread out sufficiently enough that we can tolerate the hurt singly, but primarily suffer from the cumulative effect. They want to pay for their big tax cuts on our backs—it’s that simple.

    As for Obamacare, it’s a stepping stone toward the only system that makes sense because it’s by far the most financially efficient while providing the best return on quality care—single payer. Move forward, not backwards.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      The bottom 20% pays $400 in federal taxes (including sales & excise taxes) on $24,100 income. That is not disinformation, it is fact (source: 2010 bipartisan congressional budget office).

      It should not matter to the federal government if a state like California chooses to get much of its income from sales taxes, while another state like Oregon gets its revenue from income & property taxes.

  10. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    First Doug Mudford returns to A News Cafe after a long absence, and now Dugan Barr returns. Welcome back. I’ve enjoyed your past columns, and this one is no exception. You disagreed with me before, but I still think that completely disposing of the current tax code and having a national sales tax on everything except food would solve many problems. That would be reform in the truest sense. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if Congress switched gears and addressed health CARE rather than health insurance? Three more years . . .

  11. Avatar Mary Speigle says:

    Thank you for concisely summing up why the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer if Trump has his way.

  12. Avatar Robert Scheide Sr. says:

    As a famous bank robber when asked “Why do you rob banks? He answered cause that’s where the money is.” Same question is good for taxes.. Raising taxes on the bottom 50% gets you little income but takes a lot our of demand.. The bottom 50 are living paycheck to paycheck , spend every nickle they get to live , taking more from them means the economy does worse.

    So where is the money , 3 people have more than the bottom 50 % so obviously you need to focus on the wealthiest people and corporations… Instead of lowering their taxes we need to raise them back above 70% forcing them to invest in this country as they did in the past. Corporations are using all kinds of schemes to move money to offshore facilities simply to avoid paying taxes.. It’s all pure robbery of us. Hundreds of billions ans some say trillions are sitting in offshore accounts where no taxes are paid.. they then use these funds as collate rial to get low interest loans to make more money to store offshore.. So that’s where the money is and all it takes is politicians to pass laws to bring it home.. Good luck with that.

    As for healthcare,Bernie Sanders laid it out quite clearly, Medicare for all, or single payer , covering everything , paid by the government. The government already spends the amount needed to cover this program we just don’t get the benefits..

    As long as the country buys into the conservative bullshit they will continue to come after us little guys and take our benefits bit by bit till their are none..

  13. Avatar Justin says:

    “it is a big deal for someone trying to feed a family on minimum wage”
    You may want to check your facts on just how much this example person “pays” in in income tax. You might also want to look at what percentage of minimum wage workers are trying to support a family…

    • Avatar Carla says:

      Most of the adults that you see working in retail, restaurants or nursing facilities are minimum wage (or near) workers who are trying to support a family.

  14. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Well the Smartest Man will be looking at Obstruction of Justice for sure…..how many others….time will tell!

  15. Avatar Common Sense says:

    Yes, Reform is an interesting word!….depends on how you want to define it I suppose. It is at this time safe to say the “Mental Health” or “Mental Conditions” of #45 will start to come up. His Defense will start to push for a”Dementia” or serious Mental illness assertion to lay the groundwork for trying to keep him out of jail with the ensuing charges coming his way!
    Look for more leaks on 45’s “Mental” sanity to come out here very soon…