It’s a brand new 2019 and with the New Year, we have a new power player in the nation’s capital. Democrats are now firmly in control of the House, soon we shall see if the new power will corrupt Democrats or will it make Democrats great again?
Producing and passing good policy laws that impact key areas of American life is what will ultimately make Democrats great again, not getting lost in the wilderness of political revenge, political moralizing, and political investigations. There are good and not so good signs that might make Democrats great again. According to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first order of business for Democrats and the new 116th Congress is an overhaul of campaign finance, voting rights, and ethics laws.
Of those 3 the voting rights overhaul is the one with a direct impact on American citizens, especially since the ethics overhaul is directed primarily at making President Trump release his tax returns. Campaign finance reform is a good and needed initiative but it’s not something that affects the daily life of Americans. How much money was given to a campaign by anybody and how much money President Trump made would be nice to know, but at the end of the day how do either of these things directly impact one’s day to day existence?
A citizen’s ability to cast a vote, the guarantee that their vote is accurately reflected in the final vote tally does directly impact the everyday life of every American citizen. Revealing to America President Trump’s tax returns won’t make Democrats great again, guaranteeing one person one vote will make Democrats great again. Unfortunately it appears that political gamesmanship could be afoot and not the quest to make Democrats great again, on the subject of President Trump’s tax returns Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) said in an interview with The Washington Post “We’re keeping close-to-the-vest when we’re going to do this and how we’re going to do this, but leadership agrees that this should be one of our priorities.”
Pascrell has led 17 separate Democratic attempts over the past two years to obtain President Trump’s tax returns via a little-known 1924 provision in the Internal Revenue Code that was added during the 1920’s Teapot Dome scandal. It’s a safe bet that now that Democrats control the House Pascrell’s 18thattempt will finally give him the victory he has long sought, only to die a quick and sudden death in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The reality that Democrats must face every day is that their blue wave victory was partial, not total. Democrats only won control of the House, not the Senate, so any legislation that passes in the House and eventually becomes the law of the land will have to be agreed to by both Republicans and Democrats. Accepting and acting in accordance with this reality will make Democrats great again. The new First Step Act law was made possible by a bipartisan vote to reform the criminal justice system in America. It’s proof positive that Democrats and Republicans can work together to produce laws that have a positive impact on day to day life.
Producing life impacting law as opposed to political ideology law or political warfare law will without a doubt make Democrats great again!!! Democrats can achieve this greatness for themselves and more importantly for America, by taking the following 5 steps in the following order:
Step 1 Avoid the Revenge Politics & Impeachment Trap
Democrats must commit to a policy of no hearings or investigations into misconduct or lawbreaking by President Trump, his family members, his business or political associates, and Russia by any House Committee, including the powerful House Intelligence Committee, until Special Counsel Robert Mueller completes and turns in a report to Congress about his current investigation of the same misconduct and law-breaking by the same people and the same country. This 1st step is the most important one of the 5 steps that will make Democrats great again.
The House acting in it’s best bipartisan way only has the power to determine that President Trump should be removed from office. It lacks the power to actually remove him, that power rest with a Republican-controlled Senate. A Republican-controlled Senate that’s part of a Republican Party with a track record of being more loyal to President Trump than to the American Constitution. Therefore under 99% of all circumstances, Republican Senators simply will not remove President Trump from office. Also, any hearings or investigations that House Democrats conduct that could reflect negatively on President Trump, creates a fight anything House Democrats propose attitude in House Republicans making passing any life-impact compromise legislation in the House impossible.
Informed sources speculate that the earliest Special Counsel Mueller will conclude his investigation is mid-February. If House Democrats take Step 1 and avoid the revenge politics and impeachment trap, they will have all of January and part of February to reach a bipartisan consensus with House Republicans on Steps 2, 3, 4 and 5, the other components that will make Democrats great again.
Step 2 Repair the Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare is literally on its deathbed, put there by 4 damaging body-blows to the law whose sole intent is to guarantee every American has access to affordable healthcare for whatever illness they have. President Trump inflicted the first body-blow, a severe one, with an executive order. He stopped making Cost-Sharing-Reduction (CSR) payments to insurance companies. His justification was that based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation by Congress for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.
The CSR payments were one of the Affordable Care Act’s key components, they offset the cost to insurers of offering affordable plans to poor Americans. Insurers have repeatedly warned that if the payments were cut off, they would be forced to raise premiums to make up the financial loss. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to reduce cost-sharing for individuals who enroll in silver plans and have household incomes not exceeding 250 percent of the federal poverty level. These provisions reduce the out-of-pocket limit for these enrollees — particularly for those with incomes below 200 percent of poverty — and sharply reduce deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. The CSR payments to insurance companies were totaling around $7 billion a year.
Last October President Trump inflicted the second body-blow. He signed an executive order loosening the rules surrounding the offering of health plans by small businesses, as well as rules about enrollment in short-term health insurance plans that are less expensive and less comprehensive than Obamacare health plans. Bottom line the plans won’t have the same minimum coverage requirements as Obamacare, the premiums will be cheaper and the healthcare received will be bare bones.
Body-blow number three was delivered by Republican legislators. Both the Senate and House passed a repeal of the Obamacare mandate that required all Americans to have health insurance as part of their tax-cut legislation. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that 13 million more people would go without insurance by 2027 without the mandate than if it remained in place. For those lucky enough to still have insurance the CBO found without the mandate in place health insurance premiums would rise by about 10 percent in most years over the next decade in the individual market created by the Affordable Care Act.
Body-blow three set the stage for body-blow number four which came last month when a federal judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional, the judge’s ruling stated that the law cannot stand now that Congress has rolled back the Obamacare mandate that everyone has to have health insurance or pay a fine. Fortunately, remedies for all 4 of these body-blows plus the additional fixes needed to repair and improve Obamacare, can be accomplished through legislation produced this month by a Democrat Party controlled House focused on people and not politics. This would be a significant milestone on the road to make Democrats great again.
Step 3 Produce National Infrastructure Legislation
Although President Trump has threatened to veto any infrastructure law that doesn’t include money for his wall, an economic powerhouse as massive and diversified as the United States depends on a well-maintained network of highways, bridges, airports, and dams to prosper. Unfortunately, since the recession ended in 2009 America’s infrastructure has continued to be overlooked. A report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gives U.S. infrastructure a D-plus. An estimated 17% of American dams — 15,500 in total — are categorized as high hazard potential, meaning their failure would almost certainly result in loss of life. 11.2% of roads are in poor condition ultimately leading to vehicle damage and traffic delays.
Democrats’ latest known proposal on infrastructure would cost the federal government $1 trillion divided among a diverse range of projects. $140 billion for roads and bridges, $30 billion in railways, $115 billion for water and sewer infrastructure and $50 billion to rebuild schools. It would also allocate money to less conventional areas, like $80 billion to upgrade the country’s energy grid and $40 billion to build high-speed Internet connections in hard to reach rural areas. In addition to the health, safety, and national security benefits Democrats estimate their infrastructure legislation will create 10 million jobs. 10 million new jobs would be a serious boost to the American economy and a serious feather in the cap to make Democrats great again.
Step 4 Restore & Expand The Voting Rights Act
The United States Supreme Court in 2013 struck down section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Section 4 was the formula used to determine which State’s required Federal approval or pre-clearance before making any changes that affected if, how and when a citizen would cast a vote. The majority’s reasoning was that Congress was determining which State’s required pre-clearance based on old 1975 data. The Justice’s said Congress had to use current data to make the determination. Striking down pre-clearance was an unneeded extreme overreaction by the Supreme Court. However, they were correct that the data used to determine which state’s required pre-clearance should be current. Because discriminatory practices that hinder people’s ability to vote are not just limited to the original 9 mostly southern states anymore.
Since 2010 many more states than those original 9 covered by the Voting Rights Act have introduced harsh measures making it harder to vote. 13 states have put more restrictive voter ID laws in place, 11 have laws making it harder for citizens to register, six cut back on early voting days and hours, and three made it harder to restore voting rights for people with past criminal convictions. Producing legislation that restores the pre-clearance formula and applying it to all 50 states, would protect all American citizens’ right and ability to vote and would certainly make Democrats great again.
The Voting Rights Act should also be expanded to stop an abusive practice that both Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of, politically partisan gerrymandering. An expanded Voting Rights Act should mandate that the federal government draw its own lines for all the 435 U.S. House seats, the states would continue to draw all other lines that they currently draw.
The federal government drawing its own lines means it would delegate the task to non-partisan individuals. So instead of politicians drawing the district lines for House seats that advantage their political party, a group of non-partisan professionals would draw lines based on the Voting Rights Act, population equality and geographic continuity. No more gerrymandered districts for Democrat or Republican political party control. And finally, an expanded Voting Rights Act should change the Election Day law.
Currently, Election Day for federal officials is statutorily set as “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November” or “the first Tuesday after November 1”. The earliest possible date is November 2, and the latest possible date is November 8 as it was for the 2016 election. The law should be changed so that either Election Day is a federal holiday or federal elections occur over the 2 day weekend. States would be free to continue to hold their state and local elections at the same time as federal elections or at a time of their own choosing. Both the holiday and weekend options open up the possibility of increased voter participation.
Step 5 Produce Deficit & Debt Reduction Legislation
The national debt is $21 trillion and the federal budget deficit soared in 2018 to $779 billion, it’s projected to approach $1 trillion in 2019. The budget deficit is the difference between what the federal government spends and the revenue it takes in every year. The debt is the amount of money the federal government must borrow to pay for the budget deficits. The larger the budget deficit is the more money the U.S. government has to borrow, the more money the government has to borrow the less money the government has to spend on the military, social security, the environment, voting rights, infrastructure improvements, and healthcare.
President Trump is reported to be not concerned and not planning to do anything to lower the American debt. Supposedly his rationale is by the time the enormous debt causes a problem for America he will no longer be President. This is ironic considering the fact that it’s his tax-cuts that have greatly accelerated the growth of both the debt and deficit. The budget deficit grew 17% in 2018. This was unusually high considering unemployment hit a five-decade low in 2018 and the economy experienced significant economic expansion. Its proof that the tax cuts President Trump signed into law late last year has reduced federal revenues too much.
Democrats must be willing to face some realities on the spending side of things but they first must follow the advice of billionaire Douglas Durst, whose father Seymour Durst put up the National Debt Clock in Times Square in 1989. Durst believes the solution is for the government to collect more money. “I think America has more of a revenue problem than a spending problem,” he recently told The Washington Post. He believes that it will be necessary for the U.S. to raise taxes in order to pay down the debt, and he doesn’t agree with the policy of giving tax cuts to affluent people like him when funds could be used to ease the debt burden instead. Durst called the 2017 tax bill “an overall step in the wrong direction.”
Billionaire Bill Gates agrees with Durst that the wealthy should be contributing more, not less. “I need to pay higher taxes,” the Microsoft co-founder told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in February as part of the discussion around tax reform. “I’ve paid more taxes, over $10 billion, than anyone else, but the government should require people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes.”
Democrats can’t totally solve the deficit and debt problem by raising taxes alone but they can come very close. Producing legislation that takes back ½ of the tax cuts given to the very rich 1%, and takes back 4% of the 14% tax-cut given to rich corporations would shrink both the debt and deficit significantly. It would also be the concluding act to make Democrats great again.
Media hype, pressure from political supporters, and the genuine human emotion of retributive justice makes it hard for Democrats to follow Step 1, but for the livelihood and health-hood of American citizens, they must! This in no way means President Trump, his family, and associates should get off scot-free if they are guilty of law-breaking, it means the focus should be on the American people first and prosecuting law-breaking by anybody second. The process to remove a President is minimally 6 months, 6 months that would consume all energy and focus on it and not on the day to day life needs of Americans.
At this point, we are halfway into the Trump presidency, and the Democrats have announced a debate schedule for their eventual nominee that will begin in just 6 months. More than one Democrat has already declared their presidential candidacy, in other words, Democrats and the American voters will have the opportunity soon to decide whether or not to remove President Trump from office. Since the last 2 years have been consumed with President Trump, his family, associates, and Russia let’s have the next 2 years be consumed with the American people and their needs.
If President Trump was removed from office tomorrow it would not repair Obamacare, improve the nation’s infrastructure, restore and expand the Voting Rights Act, or reduce the deficit and debt. Only Congressional legislative action can do that! If Democrats can be more statesman than politician and follow Steps 1–5 in that order, not only will it make Democrats great again but more importantly it will continue AMERICA’S GREATNESS!!!
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective on current events. Drop by his website for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.
Originally published at isaacnewtonfarris.com on January 6, 2019.