CMR and the Deficit Scam

Dear Group,

McMorris Rodgers is a creature of Republican/Libertarian ideology. Mr. Trump is her “positive disruptor.” She is “excited” about the “momentum” of the slim Republican majority in passing a Tax Cut (80% of which benefits the rich), repealing pieces of the Affordable Care Act, and “opening up” the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. (See In Her Own Words) The only vote she cast in this 115th Congress (2017-2018) that ran counter to the Republican majority in the House was against gutting the Americans with Disabilities Act. That is the exception that proves the rule. (Read: The ADA, What HR620 says of our Rep and the Republican Party

After passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, McMorris Rodgers stated time and time again it would “put money in your pocket,” even though the vast majority of the money taken from the treasury by the Act went to corporations and the already wealthy. The Congressional Budget Office and most economists said the Act would balloon the federal deficit by more than a trillion dollars over ten years. 

Last Monday, the U.S. Treasury announced the federal deficit swelled 17% in the federal fiscal year (October 1, 2017, to September 30, 2018), driven by a sharp decline in corporate tax revenues (from the same corporations that are busy using their windfall to buy back their own stock).I suppose it should come as no surprise that Republicans quickly got out to inform the nation that the problem was “entitlements,” certainly not the tax cut. Oh, no. Couldn’t be that.

Listen to Mitch McConnell, quoted from The Hill:

“It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell told Bloomberg News. “It’s a bipartisan problem.”

McConnell said the true culprit behind the rising deficits was mandatory spending.

“The three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, that’s 70 percent of what we spend every year,” he said in a separate interview with Bloomberg TV. “There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs.”

It is as if the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act never happened. A deficit is an imbalance of income and expenditures, and the Republican Party just passed a massive income giveaway 80 percent of which went to the rich. Did McConnell or McMorris Rodgers ever balance a household budget? Where is their acknowledgement of the income side? On Sunday, October 14, in the Spokesman McMorris Rodgers wrote how we must curtail spending. She is part of Republican Congressional leadership with McConnell. How long after the election (if she stays in office and in the majority) will it be before they both use the ballooning deficit as an excuse to attack Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

The Republican Party lost all claim to fairness and fiscal responsibility with their Party-line passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Now they want us to forget what they did and nod approvingly as they use the deficit they’ve inflated as justification for dismantling the social programs that support the dignity of struggling Americans.

Apparently, trashing the Affordable Care Act wasn’t enough. If the voters leave McMorris Rodgers and her people in power after the midterms, watch what happens. It won’t be pretty.

Keep to the high ground,


Empowerment or Entitlement?

Dear Group,

On Good Friday I attended the last of McMorris Rodgers’ hastily assembled “Conversations with Cathy.” She arrived with a considerable security detail leading her to the front of the fifty or so people assembled. Her opening remarks made reference to a proud accomplishment, the Steve Gleason Act. She detailed eye tracking devices enabling patients suffering from advanced ALS to communicate. I had heard the story from her before. Why is this story a feature of her every appearance?

Part of the answer to that question is this. Although McMorris Rodgers often lets the words “reach across the aisle” roll off her lips, the Gleason Act is one of only a handful of efforts on her part to actually reach…and, as you will see, even this effort carries a whiff of partisan messaging.

Steve Gleason is familiar to anyone who pays attention to football. He graduated from Gonzaga Prep and WSU; his parents still live in eastern Washington. He went on from local football fame to a career with the New Orleans Saints. There he turned the tide with an outstanding play one afternoon in 2006 just as New Orleans was staggering to its feet after Hurricane Katrina. Then tragedy struck him. Steve was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a horrific disease that finally leaves its victims with little or no voluntary movement except the ability to move their eyes. Steve at the time was only thirty-three, a man recently married and trying to start a family, a football hero with considerable resources. Instead of giving in to despair, he and his family used Steve’s fame, resources, and contacts to become tireless advocates for those suffering from ALS and other neuromuscular diseases.

When Medicare balked at paying for relatively new and expensive technology that allows patients to produce robotic speech by translating their eye movements, Mr. Gleason, his family, his non-profit, and the considerable network of followers pursued a legislative mandate for covering the technology. They enlisted Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and, through Steve’s family in eastern Washington, Cathy McMorris Rodgers to file bills in the Senate and the House. They lobbied. They organized a machine-voice calling campaign to Congresspeople called Robocalls from Humans. They invested themselves, time, and money in the effort petitioning Congress to act to grant money through Medicare to cover the technology.

With all that effort, the Steve Gleason Act passed both Senate and the House in 2015 (unanimously in the House–they did their homework) and was signed by President Obama. The original 2015 Act provided two year funding. In early February this year McMorris Rodgers was able to slip the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act as a rider into one of the last-minute, must-pass Continuing Resolutions and secure funding for the devices through Medicare in perpetuity. It is great story of persistence and bi-partisanship benefiting a group with a horrible disease.

A few years ago I would have ended this story here. After all, it’s a story of persistence. Society and government mustered up to do what’s right by a small group of people affected by hideous diseases. We’re all in this together, right?

Then I read this quote out of the Times Picayune:

“I believe our nation has the infrastructure and funds to provide technology for people who truly have no other voice,” Gleason said. “This is not an entitlement bill, it’s an empowerment bill, for people who want to be productive citizens.” [bold is mine]

What is he trying to say? Mr. Gleason is framing his eponymous bi-partisan law for a conservative audience, an audience for whom the meaning of entitlement is money you receive from the government but do not deserve. Apparently, Mr Gleason is sensitive to the idea that payments of money from Medicare to technology companies for eye-tracking devices for ALS patients might be looked upon as an entitlement. He is anxious to reframe his bill as: “empowerment…for people who want to be productive citizens.” Is there a subtext here suggesting that recipients of Medicare Disability or other government assistance are people who don’t want to be productive?

When the Affordable Care Act was phasing in, people who had lacked health insurance kept showing up in my office at the Spokane Eye Clinic with advanced diabetic eye disease, people with chronic diabetes who before the ACA had to choose between feeding their families and seeking care for their disease. I was able to help a good number of them. As a result many could see well enough to remain employed, feed their families…to “be productive citizens.” Mr. Gleason’s tremendous efforts aside, is the average patient with ALS likely to be more “productive” than a cared-for diabetic who is empowered to remain in the workforce? Mr. Gleason’s statement carries an implied judgement that should make us squirm.

The public face of my patients was not the face of a young sports icon with a family and a painfully visible wasting disease, a young sports icon prepared to frame the money spent on speech technology as empowerment. No, before the ACA my patients suffered quietly with their diabetes as it slowly robbed them of their sight and ability to work. Visual disability that degrades the ability to work is not easily depicted like the withering musculature and deteriorating voice of the young ALS patient, but what is more empowering than the restoration of sight?

Yet, in the same Good Friday “Conversation with Cathy” McMorris Rodgers apparently saw no irony in presenting the Repeal of the Individual Mandate of the Affordable Care Act as one of her proudest achievements. It is a theme she also sang in a Breitbart interview. How does she survive the cognitive dissonance of assuring the funding in perpetuity for ALS patients, while chipping away at the health insurance on which millions depend to remain productive, to remain empowered?

She seems able to focus on individual plight, like that of her son Cole or a Steve Gleason, while unable to grasp the plight of the larger citizenry. It is a failing she shares with her Party, and certainly with her President.

I want a Congresswoman with the ability to generalize, to see the bigger picture. It is time for a change.

Keep to the high ground,