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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