Fears sustain support for Republicans

Some days I feel that people fall into two categories: those that work at mitigating problems and those that would rather intensify conflicts. And I suspect that solving problems involves a lot of research and negotiation that escapes attention while conflicts prove more entertaining.   

Idaho had its share of problems even without Covid-19–a shortage of teachers, especially in math and science; a high number of young people who don’t continue their education after high school; jails crowded with reoffenders; a high suicide rate; wages too low to cover housing costs; rapidly increasing property taxes; and aging bridges-just to name a few.  

Yet, somehow, legislation concerning transgender persons received more time and publicity this past legislative session than efforts to control property taxes or fund infrastructure. Even though Idaho had lost a major court case for not allowing transgender individuals to change their birth certificates, legislators renewed the restrictions. The estimated $2 million in legal fees didn’t deter them.  

Now Idaho, having lost its second  lawsuit on the issue, is gearing up for appeals. 

 Idaho’s legal costs in fighting gay marriage ran over $1 million. The cost of fighting an inmate’s sex change operation was over $430,000. 

Our legislature–80% Republican–is willing to pay these fees because it animates the party’s base. It’s part of the “guns, gays, and God” trio that drives voters to ignore real problems that continue to grow year after year.

Last fall Caldwell City Council candidate Evangeline Beechler–by nature cheerful, courteous, and concerned about others–cited attracting good-paying jobs and holding listening sessions around the city as her major issues.   

Opponents attacked her as a Democrat and, therefore, a threat to our gun rights. They spread word that Beechler–and all Democrats–had a “hidden agenda” menacing to gun owners.

It didn’t matter that Idaho law allows only the state to regulate guns and not even Boise’s Democratic-led city council has challenged that. Nor did it matter that the Idaho Democratic platform calls for limiting gun rights only for convicted domestic abusers and those who don’t pass background checks.

Idaho gun laws are among the most lax in the nation, yet Republicans see a need to attack some regulation each election year.  This year they made concealed carry legal for all U.S. citizens here. They will probably reintroduce a bill allowing employees to carry guns on school grounds without informing administrators.  But what can they do after that?        

As with LGBT regulations and gun rights, Idaho laws have gone as far as the courts allow in limiting abortions. We require state-directed counseling; a waiting period; restrictions on private, AFA and state insurance coverage; parental consent; and no abortions after “viability” unless the patient’s life is endangered. (Idaho has lost cases limiting abortions after 20-weeks in 2013, 2015, and 2020.)   

We even have a law stating that if court rulings ever allow it, abortion will be illegal in Idaho. 

Yet, abortions occur whether they are legal or not. A 2018 study by the Guttmacher Institute found that in Latin America, where abortion is highly restricted, abortion occurs up to four times as often as in the U.S. 

Making abortions illegal will shame, endanger, and, perhaps, jail women who seek them. But increasing access to contraceptives and improving economic conditions will lower the overall number of abortions. 

Which route benefits Idaho the most?      

 By generating fears of extremes evident elsewhere, Idaho Republicans get elected year after year even though they fail to deal with an increasing number of problems affecting the state’s families, workers, schools, and infrastructure.          

Trump fighting government programs that work  

Well, this week the Trump Administration has stepped up its fight against two major pillars of liberalism in this country–Social Security and the U.S. Post Office.  

Social Security was born during the double-digit unemployment years of the Great Depression.  From the first, it made payments to those over 65 without jobs and to spouses and children of deceased workers. Disability insurance was added in 1956 and Medicare in 1965.

For me, it has meant that I didn’t have to choose between getting my father decent medical care and sending my daughters to college or to mortgage my home so my sister could get newly patented cancer treatments, and that I could retire without worrying if I would outlive my savings.

For some, however, it’s the thing they dread most: a government program that works. Many Republicans are working for the “privatization of Social Security” that would require workers to pay Wall Street traders to invest their retirement funds and would make future benefits subject to market fluctuations.

Now President Trump has signed a Tax Memorandum to stop deduction of social security taxes on wages paid from September 1 to the end of the year.  If the Secretary of the Treasury can’t find substitute sources of funding, workers must pay the tax later.

Some say this is just an attempt to boost the economy and enhance Trump’s chances of re-election.
Others contend that Trump is out to ruin Social Security.  His 2021 budget proposes cutting the number of persons receiving disability payments by 5%, and reducing funds for Medicare by 7% and for Medicaid by 16%.

The U.S. Postal Service, originally headed by Benjamin Franklin, is an even older example of a government program that works. The Founding Fathers recognized the importance of communication in bonding states into a nation and in promoting internal trade.

Today, with dozens of other delivery services available, the USPS is the ‘public option’ that keeps prices down.

The government cut out federal subsidies to the USPS during the 1980s, thus forcing it to charge enough to cover all of its expenses. In 2006, Congress ordered the agency to make payments to fund retirement obligations in advance, something neither Social Security nor other Federal retirement programs do. Four times since the USPS has failed to fund annual payments toward future retirement obligations.

President Trump has proposed making USPS “a private postal operator,” delivering mail fewer days per week, and ending door-to-door delivery. He has publicly called for a price increase for package deliveries.

In the last week or so, however, the danger to the post office became more immediate.

Trump appointees now fill every seat on the USPS board of governors, and Trump’s new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, holds at least $30 million in stock of a competing delivery company.

Over 600 machines used for rapid sorting of mail are to be “dismantled.’ CNN cited postal workers as estimating that two workers using a machine can do the work of 30 workers without one.

A major cause of the stalemate in negotiating a third coronavirus relief bill is President Trump’s rejection–and Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi’s insistence–on $25 billion in financial help for the USPS.

And Thursday, in an interview on Fox Business Network, President Trump said he believes opposing that aid will stop mail-in voting. “Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money.  That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

I’m guessing not all Republicans admire President Trump’s current battles to eliminate socialistic government programs.

Democrats defend capitalism

I got some praise from Senator Todd Young of the National Republican Senatorial Committee last week.

Young wrote that Republicans listened “to real world voters like you.” He included me among the “loyal Republicans who have the wisdom and experience necessary to help us” and that my input was “critical to compiling a detailed…profile of GOP voters across the nation.”

I do love flattery, but Young is a propagandist promoting fear of Democrats as ”hard-left socialists,” ”impeachment-obsessed socialists” and “power-mad socialists” with a “disastrous socialist agenda.”

Democrats are not socialists. If they were, there would be no need for the couple dozen political parties that are farther left. To lump them all together is like saying that all Republicans are white supremacists or members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The difference. Democrats try to save capitalism from its excesses. Socialists believe capitalism must be destroyed.

Democrats want a competitive capitalistic system with rules and a safety net.

 Was Cecil Andrus a socialist?  Idahoans elected him as governor four times–in 1970, 1974, 1986, and 1990. He worked for public kindergarten, stopped Idaho Power from building a coal-burning power plant near Boise, and fought permanent nuclear waste storage in Idaho.

Social programs and regulations? Yes. Destruction of capitalism? No.

Democrat Ilana Rubel, minority leader of the Idaho House, is no farther left. Her website states her stand on the economy this way.  “Ilana is focused on making Idaho a magnet for strong businesses and good jobs. To succeed, we must train a workforce with 21st century skills and continue to listen to the needs of Idaho businesses. Ilana regularly meets with businesspeople – large and small – to help facilitate their success.”

Does that sound like a threat to capitalism?

Nancy Pelosi, majority leader of the U.S. House, does propose some impractical ideas; she’s hoping for negotiations and counter offers. It’s the legislative process, not a threat.

Many Democrats are business people. I know Democrats with farming, construction, real estate development, retail, restaurant, recreation, and tech operations. My dad, brothers, and husband each owned businesses. A volunteer at the Dems’ booth at the fair once complained that a recent tax cut was not right, even though it was saving him $100,000.

And many Democrats own stocks. A precinct captain’s wife once explained her lack of a career by saying they moved a lot while her husband was in the military, and she found that she could make more managing their portfolio than working.

Yes, Democrats believe in community ownership of services like water, sewer, fire, police, and roads.  We believe in public lands and clean air and water.  We see a need for schools and libraries. And we believe that someone who works should be able to afford food, shelter and healthcare, and that the pressure on corporations to give fat profits to shareholders leads to wages so low that our social welfare programs are overburdened.

Democrats brought Americans the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, and social security.

We have not destroyed capitalism.

But greed and hubris are putting it in danger. Why should Americans have to pay $3,120 for six treatments of remdesivir, a drug made possible by government research and manufactured for about $1 a vial? Why should a policeman feel free to kill a man accused of petty theft in front of an audience?

No other free people tolerates such acts. Left-wing extremism will continue to grow as long as Republican leadership ignores such stark unfairness.

Socialism and communism look good to the downtrodden. Fight them with fairness, reasonable regulations and a strong safety net.

Top Idaho Concern: Coronavirus and Schools

Which got the most traction last week–Federal forces providing ‘law and order’ in Portland or the public’s response to the continued escalation of coronavirus cases?

Stated another way–did President Trump’s campaign succeed in replacing his image as a failure in handling our national pandemic with one of him as a no-nonsense, ‘law-and-order’ president?

The Trump campaign spent millions this month promoting Trump as saving Americans from violent crime. One ad shows a little old lady getting attacked in her home while no one is on duty to answer her 9-1-1 call. The tag-line is,“You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” 

But Vice President Biden doesn’t support cuts in police services. (For the record–Bernie Sanders doesn’t either.)  According to the Washington Post, although Biden has proposed requiring police departments to reach certain “levels of decency” before receiving Federal grants, he hopes to budget an additional $300 million a year for the community policing program.

Another ad scene is captioned “CHAOS & VIOLENCE” and shows helmeted protestors beating a downed police officer. The photo was taken during a 2014 riot in the Ukraine (Washington Post, July 24).  Apparently, no photo exists showing U.S. protesters violent enough for campaign material.    

President Trump echoed his strong man stand in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.  “We’ll go into the cities–all of the cities. We’ll put in 50,000, 60,000 people that really know what they are doing.  And they are strong, tough, and we can solve these problems so fast.”

Yet, I didn’t talk to a voter this week who was worried about protests, counter-protests, or violence. 

Canyon voters are worried about the coronavirus.  

Parents talk about how afraid they are to have their kids returning to school and how much the kids want to go. They talk about the difficulty of having kids working online at home while they must be at their jobs. And they talk about the fears they have for family members, including a child with asthma.

School employees–aides and bus drivers–fear their jobs won’t be there as online instruction eats up resources. Teachers sound both determined and nervous about making classes this fall work. 

And almost all worry that schools will have to close again.        

Coronavirus was also the chief concern of the U.S. Senate last week.  With benefits from the CARES Act ending and a months-old House bill aging on Mitch McConnell’s desk, Senate Republicans excluded Democrats and went about creating a new relief bill in a manner reminiscent of the babel that produced that health care bill that failed. 

Some Republicans insist on another round of $1200 payments to taxpayers and a healthy boost to unemployment payments so consumers can keep the economy from tanking. Others, notably Senator Ted Cruz, argue additional benefits to individuals rather than businesses would anger Republican voters (i.e. donors). 

And President Trump is his own faction. He objects to funding coronavirus tests; everyone around him has one daily, but he wants others to have fewer, not more. He wants unemployment benefits to be no more than 70% of a persons’ regular salary, not a one-size-fits-all $100 or $200. He is pushing to cut payroll taxes–which fund Social Security and Medicare–so those employed will spend more money. 

But he might negotiate these items if the $1 trillion relief bill includes a new FBI Building to replace the aging one across the street from the Trump Hotel.   

Republicans seem to agree on shielding businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits and funding $105 billion for reopening schools. They need businesses open and parents working no matter how bad the pandemic.