News and Opinion Based on Facts

Sunday, April 30, 2017

If You"re Poor, trump's Budget is Not for You

Trump has unveiled a budget that would slash or abolish programs that have provided low-income Americans with help on virtually all fronts, including affordable housing, banking, weatherizing homes, job training, paying home heating oil bills, and obtaining legal counsel in civil matters.

During the presidential campaign last year, Trump vowed that the solution to poverty was giving poor people incentives to work. But most of the proposed cuts in his budget target programs designed to help the working poor, as well as those who are jobless, cope.

And many of them carry out their missions by disbursing money to the states, which establish their own criteria.

“This is a budget that pulled the rug out from working families and hurts the very people who President Trump promised to stand up for in rural America and in small towns,” said Melissa Boteach, vice president of the poverty to prosperity program at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington.

The White House budget cuts will fall hardest on the rural and small town communities that Trump won, where 1 in 3 people are living paycheck to paycheck — a rate that is 24 percent higher than in urban counties, according to a new analysis by the center.

The budget proposes housing “reforms” that add up to more than $6 billion in cuts while promising to continue assisting the nation’s 4.5 million low-income households. If enacted, the proposed budget would result in the most severe cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development since the early 1980s, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

It would also eliminate the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal agencies.

The administration’s changes include eliminating funding for a $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, one of the longest continuously run HUD programs that’s been in existence since 1974.

The program provides cities with money to address a range of community development needs such as affordable housing, rehabilitating homes in neighborhoods hardest hit by foreclosures, and preventing or eliminating slums and community blight. It also provides funding for Meals on Wheels, a national nonprofit that delivers food to homebound seniors.

Robert Rector, a senior fellow who focuses on welfare at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think tank, calls the community block grants a “slush fund for urban government.”

The White House touts its cuts to what the administration characterizes as “a number of lower priority programs” as a way to “promote fiscal responsibility.” In actuality, it guts federal funding for affordable housing and kicks the financial responsibility of those programs to states and local governments.

Gone would be $35 million in funding for well-known programs such as Habitat for Humanity and YouthBuild, fair housing planning, and homeless assistance, among other housing help for needy Americans.

Other targets include funding for neighborhood development and a home-buying program through which low-income individuals help build their own homes. Trump also plans to cut the Home Investment Partnership Program, the largest federal grant to state and local governments that is designed to create affordable housing.

“There is no coordinated plan for how to fulfill the same mission. Saying states, local governments and philanthropy are going to help is just passing the buck,” said a HUD official who is not authorized to speak to the media.

The official said workers at the agency Thursday morning were feeling “demoralized” and “worried.”

“This is just a tough, tough time,” the official said. “HUD is no different than any other domestic agency in just feeling as though these cuts are all very arbitrary and unnecessary.”

Poor people need not lean on community banks for financial help, either, because Trump plans to eliminate the $210 million now dedicated toward Community Development Financial Institutions. The program, administered through the Treasury Department, invests in community banks that provide loans and financial services to people living in some of the most distressed communities of the country.

“Cutting that program would be nothing short of a disaster, and the ripple effect would be felt in urban areas and some rural areas all over America,” said Michael A. Grant, president of the National Bankers Association, a lobbying group representing minority- and women-owned banks.

The administration would also eliminate the Energy Department’s weatherization assistance program, which dates back to 1976 when Gerald R. Ford was president. Since then, it has provided states with grants that have helped insulate the homes of about 7 million families, using low-cost techniques that have large payoffs, saving money for those families and curtailing U.S. energy consumption. It has also helped establish weatherization job training centers in states such as Utah and New York.

Also on the chopping block: the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known by its acronym LIHEAP. This program, part of the Health and Human Services budget, helps homeowners cover monthly energy costs, or repair broken or inefficient furnaces and air conditioners. The program is usually underfunded; LIHEAP says that on average, only about 20 percent of the households that qualify for assistance receive benefits before the money runs out. Congress sometimes adds funding during emergencies or energy shortages when costs spike.

Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate the Community Services Block Grant, a $715 million program within HHS that funds more than 1,000 local anti-poverty organizations around the country. The organizations provide services ranging from job training to food assistance to more than 16 million people in 3,000 counties. The grants also help communities respond quickly to natural disasters, plant closures and other economic shifts.

Without the grants, there would be little coordination between faith groups, local governments, private companies and nonprofits in addressing the needs of the poor — “just a few unconnected programs that don’t have nearly the impact they have now,” said David Bradley, who founded the National Community Action Foundation and wrote the legislation behind the grants in the early '80s.

Bradley, though, is “absolutely confident” that Congress will reject the proposal.

“This is the work of a radical right that goes hard after anti-poverty programs,” he said.

The Trump budget would also target the Legal Services Corp., an independent agency that provided $343 million to 134 legal aid organizations for the poor who are tangled up in cases of wrongful eviction, custody disputes, child support or domestic violence.

Legal Services was launched as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty with the support of the American Bar Association led by Lewis F. Powell Jr., who later served on the Supreme Court. President Richard Nixon later created a free-standing corporation to administer legal aid funds.

“Here each day the old, the unemployed, the underprivileged, and the largely forgotten people of our Nation may seek help,” Nixon wrote in a 1971 message to Congress. “Perhaps it is an eviction, a marital conflict, repossession of a car, or misunderstanding over a welfare check — each problem may have a legal solution. These are small claims in the Nation’s eye, but they loom large in the hearts and lives of poor Americans.”

In 2015, Legal Services offices closed 755,774 cases — more than 100 for every lawyer and paralegal employed. About 70 percent of its clients are women, and the majority of its clients are white and between the ages of 36 and 59. The program provides lawyers only to people earning no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which is currently $15,075 for an individual and $30,750 for a family of four.

“We have a legal system that was created by lawyers for lawyers and assumes you have a lawyer,” said James J. Sandman, president of Legal Services Corp. “If you’re a tenant facing eviction and you’re up against a landlord who has a lawyer, if you’re the victim of domestic violence from someone who has a lawyer, you are not playing on a level field. Legal aid is about fairness in the justice system.”

Alaska’s rural poor get hit by the budget proposal, despite having two Republican senators. The Agriculture budget would eliminate the Denali Commission, designed to deliver services to remote, rural communities in Alaska, including Native Americans. The commission, established in 1998, contributes to the construction of health-care facilities, water and sewer systems, power generation and communication systems.

The budget would also zero out funds to help native Alaskan villages obtain access to clean drinking water and modern sewage systems.

At the Agriculture department, the budget would carve $150 million from the $6.2 billion allocated to “serve all projected participants” in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

The White House proposed shrinking Job Corps, a program administered by the Labor Department that provides education and job training to more than 60,000 young people and disadvantaged youth. The proposal called for closing centers that do a “poor job” of preparing students for the workforce, but did not elaborate on how many of the 125 centers nationwide would be targeted.

Job Corps, which was created in 1965 as part of President Johnson’s anti-poverty agenda, helps young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 earn high school diplomas and receive vocational training.

The program faced scrutiny several years ago for going over budget and has been forced to freeze enrollment multiple times since 2011 because of the monetary shortfalls. In 2013, a report from the Office of Inspector General found that the budgetary missteps were caused by inaccurate cost estimates and inconsistent monitoring of actual costs. But since then, the program has taken several steps to keep better track of costs and payments.

The Trump administration would also ax the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which aims to help low-income job seekers age 55 and up find work by pairing them with nonprofits and public agencies. The loss of the program could serve as another setback for older Americans who are still struggling to find steady work after the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate for workers 55-plus was 3.4 percent in February, according to the most recent jobs report. But the rate rises to 7.1 percent if workers with part-time jobs who want to be working full time, and those who have given up on the job search within the past year, are included, according the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School.

The goal of the senior employment program is to help participants find permanent work by providing them with training and job experience. Workers are assigned part-time jobs and paid the minimum wage, with the hope that the experience can help them find jobs that are not subsidized by the government. In its budget proposal, the Trump administration called the approach “ineffective” because up to one-third of participants do not complete the program. Of those who do finish, about half succeed in finding more permanent jobs.

Not everyone, though, believes the cuts will be a disaster for the poor.

Rector, of the Heritage Foundation, said the cuts cannot be evaluated in isolation when they represent less than 1 percent of the $1.1 trillion in total domestic (including military) discretionary spending last year.

“The basic line from the left is ‘this program alone is standing between the poor and destitution,’” Rector said. “We have a very large welfare state, and there is waste in that welfare state. It’s important to prune the waste and make these programs much more effective.”

Jonnelle Marte and Caitlin Dewey contributed to this article.
Jonnelle Marte and Caitlin Dewey contributed to this article.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Saudi Arabia elected to The United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women

How Convenient.
Now the world's most prolific oppressor of women will be able to give their input to an Official UN body when issues of human rights for women are being considered.

The United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women touts itself as “the principal global intergovernmental body” that’s “exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women."
Yet last week Saudi Arabia joined its ranks.
Saudi Arabia, along with 12 other nations, was approved as a member of the Commission for the 2018-2022 term by the 54 nations that make up the UN Economic and Social Council. It received 47 votes in a secret ballot, fewer than any other country under consideration but enough to pass the majority threshold.
Human rights advocates are outraged. Saudi Arabia is notorious for laws that repress the rights of women, such as its ban on female drivers and its requirement that women receive permission from a male guardian for a variety of fundamental tasks. UN Watch, a nonprofit watchdog, unearthed last week’s vote, which took place alongside elections for other subsidiary bodies, and its executive director Hillel Neuer is speaking out against it.
“It’s absurd—and morally reprehensible,” Neuer wrote in a blog post that compared the election to “making an arsonist into the town fire chief.”
Given the Commission’s broad mandate, Neuer told Fortune it’s unclear what “concrete impact” Saudi Arabia’s election to the Commission will have in the near future. But the vote “definitely has the power of sending a message,” he says, to Saudi women in particular, by “putting their oppressor in a position of power and influence when it comes to women’s rights.”

Claire Zillman

Friday, April 21, 2017

Trump Has the Worst 100 Days of Any President in History

Historian Douglas Brinkley, who CNN once said knew more about the presidency than any person alive, said Donald Trump's presidency has had the worst start of any administration in U.S. history.

"This is the most failed first 100 days of any president," Brinkley told the Washington Post Tuesday. "To be as low as he is in the polls, in the 30s, while the FBI director is on television saying they launched an investigation into your ties with Russia, I don't know how it can get much worse. "
Brinkley, who is a best selling author, a professor of history at Rice University and a CNN presidential historian, made the comments after FBI director James Comey told a congressional panel his agency is conducting an investigation into possible Trump administration ties to Russia.

Trump's approval ratings show a stark contrast between previous presidents at this point in their administration. According to Gallup, Trump had an approval rating of 39 percent during polling conducted between March 13 and 19. Other presidents had far higher approval figures in March of their first year in office: Barack Obama had a 62 percent approval rating, George W. Bush had a 58 percent approval rating and Bill Clinton had the previous lowest rating at 53 percent.

Dwight Eisenhower had the highest approval rating at in March of his first year at 74 percent, just ahead of John F. Kennedy at 73 percent.

This isn't the first time Brinkley has called the young Trump administration historically bad. Just a few days after January's presidential inauguration, Brinkley questioned whether Trump was sabotaging himself after he made dubious claims about the crowd size at his inauguration.

"The truth of the matter is he had a successful inauguration with a respectful crowd. The transition of power went off without a hitch. His supporters were amiable by and large," Brinkley told Politico on Jan. 22. "But then he can never let go and stop watching cable TV. Now he's off to the worst start of a presidency in a very long time."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Is this the real reason Trump won't release his taxes?

You can't escape Trump news at the moment, but like it or not, entrepreneur and game-show host Donald J Trump is now the leader of the free world, However, given the choice, I imagine there are a few stories The White House would like to see disappear.

There are his policies, his controversial appointments, the reports of civilian deaths during his first authorized military operation, and of course the fabled dossier. I could carry on, but I'm going somewhere with this and I do want to get there.

From banning Muslims to repealing the Affordable Health Care Act, there are at least some promises #president Trump intended to keep, but chief amongst those he did not, is the issue of his tax returns.
There has been much speculation over this, and despite Kelly Ann Conway's assertion that only the press want to see them, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll, 74% of the public do too.

So why won't Trump bow to pressure and hand them over?

There are two favourite theories doing the rounds. First, there's Hillary's suggestion that he doesn't pay tax. An assertion that came during the second of the live televised debates and one to which he enigmatically added that if it were true, it would mean he was 'smart'. The second theory is a bit more cloak and dagger, and suggests the real reason President Trump won't release his tax returns is to prevent folks from seeing where his money comes from. Hushed words in dark corners allege that the President has ties to Russia and other shady players on the world stage. Could the Trump regime be hiding secret contributions? The truth is we may never know. But what if there was a third reason, something less clandestine; a simple rational explanation hiding in plain sight? What if Trump didn't want to disclose his tax returns because he is broke?

Stay with me on this one; it's not as far-fetched as it sounds. You don't need to be a detective to work out Trump's business dealings are opaque, but respected newspaper the Wall Street Journal did manage to get under the lid. Its investigation discovered that Trump's debt is at least $1.5 Billion higher than anyone had previously thought.

What else is Trump Hiding?

If you take those figures into account and then consider his refusal to place his business interests into a blind trust, there's an argument that things aren't as rosy in Trump town as we've been lead to believe. Then there was the story in Vanity Fair about Trump's campaign staff walking out because they weren’t paid - and it's common knowledge the Trump organisation is no stranger to bankruptcy. Even the former president Barack Obama had a pop at Trump's business acumen, going as far as to say that Trump had left a trail of lawsuits.

There's been much talk about President Donald J Trump’s motivation for running. Some are unfair, others only outright tin hat tomfoolery, but if this journalist had to guess... well, I can't help but wonder if it's all about the money. We may never know for sure, because if President Trump was penniless before he entered the White House, chances are he's set to refill his coffers. An interesting article entitled A Trial Balloon for a Coup, on Medium noted earlier in the week that the President has already filed his intent to stand in 2020. This means he's already eligible to accept campaign donations.

Ignoring the obvious potential conflicts of interest involved in the chain of Trump hotels, gold course and even the fact that US taxpayers are hiring apartments from him to house his secret service, Trump now has the power to make dollar slump or soar with just 140 characters.

I sincerely doubt President Trump's anti-Islamic immigration policy will do anything to make the USA safer, but as the dollar buckled in the aftermath of its announcement, I had to wonder just how money he made. Oh, and I can't help wondering, since he is seldom off it, just how much President Trump and his sons have invested in Twitter.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Medical Theory for Donald Trump’s Bizarre Behavior

Many mental health professionals believe the president is ill. But what if the cause is an untreated STD?

Al Franken recently raised a provocative question about Donald Trump: Is he mentally ill? On HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher last week, the Minnesota senator claimed that some of his Republican colleagues have “great concern about the president’s temperament,” adding that “there’s a range in what they’ll say, and some will say that he’s not right mentally. And some are harsher.” Two days later, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “We all have this suspicion that—you know, that he’s not—he lies a lot…And, you know, that is not the norm for a president of the United States, or, actually, for a human being.” Last year, Jeb Bush said of his Republican primary opponent, “I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but the guy needs therapy.” Senator Bernie Sanders recently called Trump “delusional in many respects, a pathological liar.” And Congressman Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, is introducing legislation that would require the White House to have a psychiatrist on staff. “I’m looking at it from the perspective of, if there are questions about the mental health of the president of the United States, what may be the best way to get the president treatment?” he told the Huffington Post. Meanwhile, a debate is raging among mental health professionals about Trump’s mental state, and whether it’s unethical of them to speculate publicly about someone whom they haven’t examined (doing so violates psychiatrists’ code of ethics, the relevant section of which is called “the Goldwater rule” because of its association with a magazine survey of psychiatrists about Barry Goldwater, the Republican presidential nominee, in 1964). One online petition with nearly 24,000 signatures calls for Trump’s removal because he “manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President.” Another with 36,000 signatures declares that “Trump appears unable to control his compulsion and displays characteristics of all nine criteria to officially diagnose an individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Physicians like me have also taken notice of Trump’s bizarre, volatile behavior. Given our experience, we can’t help but wonder if there’s a medical diagnosis to be made. After all, many medical conditions exhibit their first symptoms in the form of psychiatric issues and personality changes. One condition in particular is notable for doing so: Neurosyphilis. Syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection, is sometimes referred to as “The Great Imposter” because of its ability to mimic many other conditions. It is commonly broken down into three stages. Primary syphilis is the most widely recognized form of the disease. It is characterized by the development of an ulcer, usually genital, a few weeks to a few months after sexual contact with an infected person. If the ulcer is not noticed, or not treated, it heals on its own, and the disease enters a dormant phase. But during this time, the bacteria—a spirochete called Treponema pallidum—spreads throughout the body without causing any symptoms. A secondary stage of the disease is seen in some patients weeks or months later. These patients may develop a variety of systemic symptoms, such as rash, fever, and swollen glands. If not treated, the infection enters a prolonged latent phase, which can last decades. During this time, it is asymptomatic and it is not contagious. In some cases, this is followed by a tertiary stage, which is the most serious and may involve any organ in the body. It is seen 10 to 30 years after the initial infection, and is best known for causing neurologic and neuropsychiatric disease: Neurosyphilis. The symptoms of neurosyphilis are protean, varying widely from one individual to another. Commonly recognized symptoms include irritability, loss of ability to concentrate, delusional thinking, and grandiosity. Memory, insight, and judgment can become impaired. Insomnia may occur. Visual problems may develop, including the inability of pupils to react to the light. This, along other ocular pathology, can result in photophobia, dimming of vision, and squinting. All of these things have been observed in Trump. Dementia, headaches, gait disturbances. and patchy hair loss can also be seen in later stages of syphilis. Does Trump suffer from this condition? I cannot, of course, establish this diagnosis from a distance. There’s a great deal of information I don’t have access to, which could be critical in reaching the correct conclusion. In Trump’s case, there are many diagnostic possibilities, and we have very little background information because the slim medical summary he released was vague, unverifiable, and possibly outdated. On the other hand, every time I see a new patient, he or she comes to me with incomplete information, or sometimes no information at all. Part of my training is to ask the right questions to get a sense of what the problem might be and make a list of possible diagnoses that could explain the problem. This is called the “differential diagnosis.” From there, additional questions, examinations, and tests are performed that narrow down the list, usually to one unifying diagnosis. Trump poses with Miss America contestants on his yacht in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1988.JACK KANTHAL/ASSOCIATED PRESS Given the limited information available, neurosyphilis belongs in the differential diagnosis. We know Trump was potentially exposed to syphilis based on his own statements that he was sexually promiscuous in the 1980s, a period when syphilis cases were rapidly increasing in the U.S. “I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world,” he told Howard Stern in 1997, referring to his dating life the decade prior. “It is a dangerous world out there—it’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam era. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave solider.” If indeed Trump has neurosyphilis, he’d be in famous company. Al Capone had it. So did composers Frederick Delius and Franz Schubert. Many others were suspected of having it, including Hitler, Mussolini, and Ivan the Terrible. What might enable us to eliminate Trump from this group? Two simple blood tests, in combination, can determine whether a patient has syphilis now or had it in the past. If both tests are negative, then he doesn’t have neurosyphilis. If one or both tests are positive, further evaluation, probably including a spinal tap, would be in order. The importance—both to Trump and the nation—of establishing or ruling out this diagnosis cannot be overstated, because this infection is treatable. Without treatment, however, the disease is progressive: It can make for a rather ugly end to one’s life. Whether Trump emerged unscathed from his “personal Vietnam” is now a question that he should explore with his personal physician. Dr. Steven Beutler has spent over 30 years practicing medicine, specializing in infectious diseases.