Republicans should be embarrassed by vouchers for all and should pay the political price

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Greg Miller, a Republican, charter school founder, and past president of the AZ Board of Education, holds the GOP support of voucher expansion bill an insult to most students. And it is an insult to the rest of us who understand, what our state supreme court does not, that the AZ voucher program is a scam. It is nothing more than money laundering to get around the constitutional prohibition against giving public money to private, religious schools. As such the voucher program is an assault on public education. Period.

Here is Miller’s opinion piece in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) – emphases added.

As an advocate for education reform for the past 35 years, a co-founder of a very successful charter school, a lifelong Republican, and the most recent past president of the Arizona State Board of Education, I have never been more embarrassed, outraged, disappointed, and angry to call myself a Republican. How on earth do the Republicans in the state Legislature who voted for the Empowerment Scholarship Account (voucher) bill, or our governor, who signed it, look in the mirror and in good faith, not understand what they have just done.

This is an outrageous attack against public education. This out-and-out transfer of state taxpayer money to private education through “school choice” is just what it seems, political rhetoric and very bad financial policy. It even blurs the separation of church and state line defined in the U.S. Constitution by our founders. Public education has been the equalizer for 150 years of economic growth and assimilation of immigrants into the culture that we enjoy today. This is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of students who do not have the resources to pay the additional thousands of dollars for the tuition these private schools will be charging above the state subsidy, and without the opportunity of a quality education provided in their local schools where due process and common goals of expectation drive the continued development of economic expansion for everyone, not just a privileged few.

Does the existing system have its troubles? Yes it does. Has the education reform movement of the past 25 years made a difference? Yes, but with miles left to go. Is money the only answer to solve the major issues in public education? No, but as a state you can starve the system to death. Without adequate funding for public education we have: 35 or more students in classrooms, teacher shortages resulting in 2,000 to 3,000 classrooms going without teachers, hundreds of teachers walking away from their existing classrooms (500 this past fall) because of the stress of the job, the politics of the institutions, and the low pay in one of the highest stress professions. This is our current situation, but instead of finding solutions we are letting more state tax money flow out of the existing system without accountability or transparency.

Are our classroom teachers getting the job done? Many are not! But their efforts are not the only reason: first generation immigrants, exaggerated federal rules and requirements, poverty, highly mobile student populations, uninvolved parents, teaching resources, a lack of commitment to children by their families and the state, and the list goes on! But in a state that is ranked at, or near, the bottom in every category of financial support for public education, how on earth can anyone, let alone those who are responsible for the stewardship of our children’s education and our tax dollars, support or even condone this disgraceful attack on our state’s economic future?

A great big thank you to my fellow Republicans at the Legislature who held ground and used common sense by not giving in to the pressure of those who have crafted and moved this bill to signature. All Republicans that share this view use your vote in next summer’s Republican primary to replace anyone who supported this transfer of economic wealth from our public school system to the private schools of the wealthy.

— Greg Miller is president and superintendent of Challenge Charter School and a former president of the state Board of Education.

Arizona fails its future as Doug Ducey, our "Education governor", goes mum on teacher exodus

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Actually I’m not being fair. Dougie proposed a 0.4%raise (which works out to a couple of dollars a week) and then signed off on vouchers for everyone (that siphons off several thousand public dollars to private, religious schools). That’s what an “education governor” does. It gets worse. Read on and weep.

Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy has released a fact sheet highlighting the key findings of an upcoming report on Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms. (h/t BlueMeanie.) Here are the bullet points.

  • Arizona annually is losing more teachers than bachelor of education degrees produced by its three universities.
  • When adjusted for cost-of-living, Arizona elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the nation. High
    school teacher pay ranks 48th of the 50 states.
  • When adjusted for inflation, elementary school teachers here are paid 14% less than in 2001. Arizona secondary teachers are being paid 11% less.
  • 74% of Arizona school administrators surveyed said their campuses are experiencing a shortage of teachers.
  • Arizona teacher rosters do not reflect state demographics, offering limited role models for children of color.

And on top of all that, Ducey sticks it to our teachers by proposing a niggardly, insulting 0.4% raise. See Laurie Roberts’ comments in Is Ducey joking? A 4/10th’s of a percent pay raise for teachers?

I know Ducey’s in a tough spot because money’s tight due to a quarter century of tax cuts and due to the fact that he wants to continue cutting taxes every year.

But Ducey could have proposed delaying previously approved corporate tax cuts set to be phased in next year, allowing him to double his proposed investment in public education. Even freezing automatic 20 percent increases in the corporate tax credit that funds private school tuition would have signaled a commitment to public education.

But a 4/10s of a percent pay raise?

This, again, is Ducey … :

“This is an investment by the state of Arizona in recognizing and rewarding the work of our teachers in a way that is fair, permanent and fiscally responsible.”

And they can take that to the bank …

Or maybe to a payday loan center.

If this isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is. AZBlueMeanie agrees: New study: ‘Arizona teacher recruitment, retention and pay are at crisis levels’

David Fitzsimmons uses his sharp wit to expose the problems facing public education in Arizona as State Senator Rip Fiddler talks public education

The most piercing comments again come from Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com: Teachers fed up? In Arizona? Noooo. (h/t AZBlueMeanie)

The study – funded by the Arizona Community Foundation, Helios Education Foundation and The Pike and Susan Sullivan Foundation – concluded that teachers are leaving the profession for a variety of reasons – retirement, disillusionment, low pay and a belief that they aren’t supported.

Me? I don’t see how they can say that.

Our governor has proclaimed himself the education governor.

But wait: Look at all this help they’re getting

Why, just three months ago, Ducey, in his State of the State address, said he had “a new appreciation for the excellence occurring in our school system.” He attributed that success to teachers.

“I want teachers in our state to know: You make a difference. I value your work and it’s time we return the favor.”

Four days later, he proposed a pay raise that amounts to about $2 a week.

Three months later, he signed a universal voucher bill that’ll divert more public money to private schools.

This, in a state that already spends $1,365 less, when adjusted for inflation, to educate a child than it did in 2008.

Me? I can’t imagine why teachers are feeling slighted.

Here are selected observations from the Morrison Institute’s Report: AZ in crisis over teacher pay, retention

“Teacher pay and support is a proxy for how highly we think of students and their education,” said Steve Seleznow, President & CEO of Arizona Community Foundation and a former school administrator. “When we undervalue our educators, we under educate our children. This problem will not go away without fundamental change in the ways we support our teachers. If we value the education our children receive, we must provide teachers compensation commensurate with those values.”

Teachers are leaving the profession for many reasons – retirement, disillusionment, low pay and a feeling of lack of support.

"The teacher shortage is urgent, critical and very real,” said Rachel Yanof, Senior Director of Educational Initiatives for the Pike and Susan Sullivan Foundation. “It is imperative that those with the position to influence policy read this report and act in a manner that will stem this crisis as quickly as possible. Our children deserve it.”

Arizona, you see, is not just failing its teachers. Arizona is failing its future.

Ducey should sign SB 1080 (texting while driving). Here’s why.

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com.

Howard Fischer (Arizona Capitol Times, subscription required) reports that Texting ban on teenage drivers now only needs Ducey’s signature to become law.

Arizona is just one signature away from imposing its first-ever limits on the use of cell phones by teens.

On a 32–24 margin, the state House today gave final approval to legislation banning teens with a learner’s driving permit from texting or making calls from their cell phones while behind the wheel. SB1080 also extends that to the first six months they have their actual Class G license, which is reserved for the newest drivers.

The measure, which previously was approved by the Senate on a 24–6 margin, now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey.

Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said only that his boss will review the bill.

But the issue could be more personal for Ducey. He has three sons, two of whom are of driving age.

Thursday’s vote came over the objection of some legislators who want Arizona to remain one of only two states in the country with no limits at all on cell phone use by motorists. They said their fear is that once Arizona restricts what teens can do, it’s just a small step to extending that to adults.

Exactly. It should be extended to all drivers. Here is why.

In the early 2000’s, Psychologist David Strayer at the University of Utah investigated the influence of cell phone use on driving errors. Here is some of a review of that research by the American Psychological Association Driven to Distraction. Driving and cell phones don’t mix.

Cell phones may be convenient but there’s one place they seem to do more harm than good – and that’s behind the steering wheel. Psychological research is showing that when drivers use cell phones, whether hand-held or hands-off, their attention to the road drops and driving skills become even worse than if they had too much to drink. Epidemiological research has found that cell-phone use is associated with a four-fold increase in the odds of getting into an accident – a risk comparable to that of driving with blood alcohol at the legal limit.

In one study, when drivers talked on a cell phone, their reactions to imperative events (such as braking for a traffic light or a decelerating vehicle) were significantly slower than when they were not talking on the cell phone. Sometimes, drivers were so impaired that they were involved in a traffic accident. Listening to the radio or books on tape did not impair driving performance, suggesting that listening per se is not enough to interfere. However, being involved in a conversation takes attention away from the ability to process information about the driving environment well enough to safely operate a motor vehicle.

According to Strayer’s laboratory research, cell-phone drivers were also more likely to miss traffic signals and often failed to see billboards and other signs. A special eye-tracking device measured where, exactly, drivers looked while driving. Even when drivers directed their gaze at objects on the road (during simulations), they still didn’t “see” them because their attention – during a cell-phone call – was elsewhere.

The Utah lab is also measuring the increased risk associated with cell-phone use relative to other real-world activities – most recently, alcohol consumption. Disturbingly, forthcoming research will show that talking on a cell phone (even hands-free) hurts driving even more than driving with blood alcohol at the legal limit (.08 wt/vol). When talking on a cell phone, drivers using a high-fidelity simulator were slower to brake and had more “accidents” than when they weren’t on the phone. Their impairment level was actually a little higher than that of people intoxicated by ethanol (alcohol).

Strayer and his colleagues compared data for hand-held and hands-free devices and found no difference in the impairment to driving, thus, they say, raising doubts about the scientific basis for regulations that prohibit only hand-held cell phones.

Real life implications

… drivers should also be aware that whether a cell phone is hands-on or hands-free makes no difference in terms of mental distraction. According to the research, the mental activity of conversation, whether in person or over the phone, is what takes one’s mind off the road. What happens in the head happens regardless of what happens with the hands.

… drivers need to remember that warnings (and, in some localities, legislation) about cell-phones and driving are prompted by cross-sectional studies of drivers of varied ages, educational levels, and years of driving. Susceptibility to distraction while driving has nothing to do with smarts or skill

Arizona SB 1080 now sits on Gov. Ducey’s desk. It is not perfect – far from it because of its failure to accommodate the above two lessons from applied research. Nevertheless, it is an important first step. We have laws aimed at prevention of driving while drunk. We should have parallel laws aimed at prevention of driving while distracted. Ducey should sign SB 1080.

Trump reverses stand on EPA, orders trillion dollar investment in solar energy

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

April Fool!

(I wrote most of this post yesterday – April 1.)

Let’s try a different headline. China, Chile, America – which does not belong?

If you picked America, you would be correct. China and Chile are leading the way in solar energy investment. This is another way in which Trump’s MAGA is a race to the bottom.

The Washington Post reports that While Trump promotes coal, Chile and others are turning to cheap sun power. Chile, the main focus of the report, aims to be “A solar Saudi Arabia.”

The Atacama desert in Chile is possibly the driest, sunniest place on the planet. It also is a popular tourist destination being home to some of the most interesting geological formations and ecologies: check out flocks of flamingos in the high plains salt flats, volcanoes, valley of the moon, the Andes, and more things to do in San Pedro de Atacama.

The Atacama is also interesting because of Chile’s immense national copper mine. Chile put this mine in place where no rational person would want to live – and then built a whole city to house the (well-paid) miners.

In addition to tourist cash and copper, the Atacama is an ideal place to situate massive solar arrays. No rain means no atmospheric interference with sun light. And that means super efficient solar production.

The sun is so intense and the air so dry that seemingly nothing survives. Across vast, rocky wastes blanched of color, there are no cactuses or other visible signs of life. It’s Mars, with better cellphone reception.

It is also the world’s best place to produce solar energy, with the most potent sun power on the planet.

So powerful, in fact, that something extraordinary happened last year when the Chilean government invited utility companies to bid on public contracts. Solar producers dominated the auction, offering to supply electricity at about half the cost of coal-fired plants.

It wasn’t because of a government subsidy for alternative energy. In Chile and a growing list of nations, the price of solar energy has fallen so much that it is increasingly beating out conventional sources of power. Industry experts and government regulators hail this moment as a turning point in the history of human electricity-making.

“This is the beginning of a trend that will only accelerate,” said Chilean Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo. “We’re talking about an infinite fuel source.”

President Trump ordered U.S. regulators this week to reverse Obama-era policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and he has promised to “bring back” the U.S. coal industry. But construction of coal-fired power plants dropped 62 percent over the past year worldwide, according to a survey by the Sierra Club and other activist groups. In China last year, the number of new permits for coal-fired plants fell by 85 percent.

More worldwide generating capacity is now being added from clean sources than coal and natural gas combined, according to a December report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which closely tracks investment in renewables.

An investor in Chile wanting to build a hydroelectric dam or coal-fired plant potentially faces years of costly political battles and fierce resistance from nearby communities. In contrast, a solar company can lay out acres of automated sun-tracking panels across an isolated stretch of desert and have them firing quiet, clean electricity in less than a year, with no worries about fluctuating fuel prices or droughts. The sunlight is free and shows up for work on time, every morning.

Long dependent on energy imports, Chilean officials now envision their country turning into a “solar Saudi Arabia.” Chile’s solar energy production has increased sixfold since 2014, and last year it was the top-scoring clean-energy producer in the Americas, and second in the world to China, according to the Bloomberg rankings. (China is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases but also the leading investor in renewable energy.)

Driving the global shift to cheap sun power is a dramatic decline in the cost of the photovoltaic (PV) panels that can be used to create giant desert solar farms or rooftop home installations. China produces more than two-thirds of the world’s PV panels, and their price has fallen more than 80 percent since 2008.

Unlike many of South America’s other major countries, Chile has virtually no oil or gas deposits. With a heavy dependence on imported fuel, Chileans have been paying some of the highest electricity rates in the region, but prices are falling as renewable sources come online.

The Atacama is well-suited to solar energy production for the same reasons astronomers put high-powered telescopes in northern Chile for the clearest possible Earth-based views of the cosmos.

In nations such as Japan and Germany, which are some of the world leaders in solar energy production, the sun’s rays are partly diffused by water molecules floating in the air, even on days when it isn’t cloudy.

But in the super-dry Atacama, where it virtually never rains, the photons beam straight down. Put a solar panel beneath them and it’s like plugging into the sun.

At the Finis Terrae solar plant near the tiny town of Maria Elena, more than 500,000 PV panels blanket the desert. The 160-megawatt plant was the largest solar installation in Latin America when it went online last summer, capable of powering nearly 200,000 homes. Since then, another Chilean plant has surpassed it.

I am skipping over some of the hassles Chile faces because of the harsh conditions – the extreme radiation – in the Atacama. But the biggest problem with solar is what to do when the sun goes down. Chile is working on it. “Chile could generate all of its electricity with about 4 percent of the desert’s surface area, if there were a way to efficiently store and distribute that energy.”

A company looking to bridge this gap in Chile is building Latin America’s first solar thermal plant. You can see its solitary tower rising from the desert for miles around, like some sort of alien religious shrine. At nearly 700 feet, it is the second-tallest building in Chile.

Instead of PV panels, the solar thermal plant will have 10,000 giant, rotating mirrors set in concentric circles around the tower. They will concentrate the sun’s rays on a huge boiler at the top, filled with molten salts, that reaches more than 1,000 degrees and glows like the Eye of Sauron in “The Lord of the Rings.”

The superheated salts ooze downward to steam turbines at the base of the tower, retaining enough energy to generate electricity all night. It’s essentially a giant, rechargeable $1.4 billion battery.

The plant’s owner, Cerro Dominador, a subsidiary of U.S.-based EIG Global Energy Partners, says it will be completed in 2019. Larger solar thermal facilities based on the technology are in operation in California, and Chile has issued permits for others.

Ivan Araneda, the company’s top executive, said such solar thermal facilities can transform the industry.

“The attack on renewables is that they’re too expensive, but this is efficient, proven technology,” Araneda said. “On an even playing field, renewables can compete with anything.”

Nobody can beat McSally … until we find the right Nobody

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Blake Morlock writes a column “What the Devil won’t tell you” for the Tucson Sentinel. His latest is an argument that the Dems’ best hope to beat McSally could be a complete nobody. However, goes the subtitle, Harnassing midterm anger isn’t in establishment Democrat DNA.

So. Let’s do some genetic engineering. Here are snippets.

[Republicans] whiffed on doing something — anything — to Obamacare because apparently drafting a ready-to-go bill was too much work for Republicans during the seven years they railed against the Affordable Care Act as a freedom-destroying, job-killing socialism. I guess they had other things to do.

It’s going to take more than a golden retriever in a pickup truck to get U.S. Rep. Martha McSally out of this one. We can all agree that Boomer is, in fact, “a good boy,” but Obamacare was supposed to be the easy victory.

Republicans run the risk of failing to get any real changes through Congress before the 2018 midterms as President Donald Trump seems to prefer pissing off the losers across the country who don’t see his genius.

They would be smarter to move the goal posts to the 45 than try to deliver “comprehensive tax reform.” The idea of border adjustment tax is likely political hokum at best and the trigger of a trade war at worst. They gotta win something so they might just pass a standard-issue tax cut and call it The New Deal.

If they don’t, then they’re looking at an 0-Fer and they can’t be (deep breath) that stupid. The 2018 midterm was going to be hard for McSally when it looked like the GOP could run the legislative table. Political failures only make her prospects worse.

McSally is in trouble but to do something about it, the Democrats – the national Democratic establishment – may have to break form and follow their base. By national Democrats, I mean the big Washington money and shiney-shoed consultants who decide what’s what out here where plants bite.

The obvious candidates don’t yet inspire much fear in the GOP. Former state Rep. Matt Heinz suffered a double-digit loss to McSally and former state Rep. Victoria Steele couldn’t raise any money or beat Heinz in the primary. State Rep. Randall Friese might be an interesting choice but he’s just in his second term.

Why does it have to be a state lawmaker? Because that’s a safe bet and national Democrats will only dance with a safe bet.

I guarantee you that D.C. establishment looks at Martha McSally and doesn’t see a woman who won her seat in 2014 by a few hundred votes. They don’t see her serving a district Hillary Clinton won by five points. They see a congresswoman who raised a stupefying $7 million in 2016.

Then they look at the Democratic landscape and see no obvious candidate who can raise enough money to match because all the obvious candidates can be “called a liberal.”

They may try to coax Green Valley pecan grower Nan Walden to run for office (again). She’ll probably play coy and then say no (again). They may even try to get Ann Kirkpatrick to move from Flagstaff to Tucson to take on McSally (a lot of Dems seem giddy about this possibility). In which case, McSally may just be able to land this thing on autopilot.

A nobody may be their best bet but “nobody” will be a tough candidate for the D.C. types to swallow.

If that does not kickstart your depression, then you are the emotional equivalent of a cinder block. So let’s get over the get-mad and do the get-even.

The first step out of the downer mode, Morlock continues, is to understand mid-term elections.

Midterm elections with an unpopular president turn on one message: Wrath.

Voters don’t want to hear about a 10-point plan for inter-modal transit that moves Southern Arizona forward again. They want to hear “I’m pissed too and I’ll stand up to Donald Trump in Congress.”

Democrats have long preferred the resume to the voice and that has cost them.

So we need a candidate who will broadcast the Greats of Wrath.

An improving economy would improve the 2018 climate for the GOP, if Trump could stop creating his own weather. Yet all he seems to know is how to be a one-man pressure front happiest in storm and squall.

Those are the elements McSally is left to and her tenure in Congress could fall victim to the exposure.

Democrats don’t need a Latina, business-owning combat veteran who “can’t be called a liberal” who will drive out the base on identity alone. What they need is The Voice promising to be The Wrath. See: Sanders, Bernie.

Who can beat McSally? It may be a nobody out there thinking “I’m sick of this … I’m gonna run without apology" because no Democrat will beat McSally.

Donald Trump might.

[Especially] … If [McSally] keeps supporting him 100 percent of the time …

The obvious candidate? Sure, maybe a guy like Randy Friese could make a go of it. But anyone who says a loudmouth outsider channeling voter anger can’t win federal office against an establishment type has been living in a glass jar the last two years.

And voters have a lot to be angry about. All the BS spouted by Trump and defended by McSally’s 100% votes just got proven to be empty promises by the failure of the GOPlins to pass their own health care bill. That hurts. Health care is a very personal thing. McSally was poised to vote for that atrocity. Will she vote to support a budget that cuts cancer research in favor of a not-so-beautiful wall that will screw things up with Arizona’s southern trading partner? And, BTW, said research is the hope that Uncle Joe will get some life-saving treatment. Not to mention the economic injustice of Trumpcare being a transfer of working class wealth to Trump’s billionaire BFFs. Voting for this stuff is a slap in the face of CD2 voters. Take that, McSally.

And, let’s not forget that there is a scandal dominating the nightly news that is not going away – the Trump connection to Russia. For example, check out AZBlueMeanie’s report today Follow the money: USA Today’s investigation into Donald Trump’s Russian mob money connections. Will McSally vote against our national security?

Probably. Check out this Letter to the Editor by Kathy Krucker in this morning’s Daily Star.

Re: the March 26 letter “Where is McSally on Trump’s Misbehavior”

Excellent point about Rep. Martha McSally ignoring our Commander-in-Chief’s shameless history of denigrating women! McSally is an Air Force Academy graduate and served our country with honor. Hopefully, her Academy oath would carry over into Congressional governance: not tolerating those who lie and cheat.

Why won’t McSally call out the President on his denial of facts reported by our intelligence agencies and reputable news outlets? McSally is silent on the tweets of a president who accepts as true what he learns from Brietbart, Fox News and conspiracy outlets. She is silent about the ethical violations of her own chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (Devin Nunes), who seems more interested in protecting the president than conducting a bipartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in our democracy and elections. She is silent about a president, White House, and a cabinet with significant financial and ethical conflicts of interest.

The questions raised in the letter may not in themselves be enough to win the midterm but it might not hurt to pile on.

Below is a copy of a comment in response to Morlock’s column by “bettsph.” I edited it to flip the gender. Assume that the “I” in this comment is me.

I know of a “nobody” that I think would be perfect for the job, frankly… She is an ex military person (such an obviously better choice for rural arizona than an anti-gun female or a gay guy: apologies for stereotypes here but the margins seem to indicate that at least SOME thought needs to head in that direction….) with good solid values that are accessible to both sides, and is unabashedly AGAINST TRUMP. She has run a political campaign before and lost, despite being a fantastic communicator. She has a little more recognition than nobody, but a) she could do the job and b) she could win the district if she had some money and professional campaign consultants who wouldn’t try to get her to sell herself down the river in order to win. She is authentic. I am not interested in outing her if she doesn’t choose to run, I’m just saying’, keep your eyes open for Nobody. She’s out there!

Why Trumpcare died, Rep. McSally’s warped view of healthcare, and more

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Those of us, those Americans, who walked, sat-in, called, wrote letters, and otherwise pressured our legislators can take some credit for the outcome, Republicans give up on controversial, unpopular health plan, reports Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog).

… The American Health Care Act, a.k.a. “Trumpcare,” has apparently died, but it’s unrealistic to think Republicans will simply give up on this issue and accept the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land. Health care proponents and their allies should remain vigilant, knowing that there are additional rounds to come.

But in the meantime, progressive activists and their allies can take a bow. They helped derail a dreadful and dangerous piece of legislation.

After Trump was elected, many assumed it was a foregone conclusion that the ACA would be destroyed by the new, dominant Republican majority. But as it turned out, the only thing GOP policymakers agreed on was that they hated “Obamacare” – and they had absolutely no idea what to put in its place.

There was some talk today about the White House demanding a vote anyway, getting members on the record about the bill Trump wanted, but there was ultimately no point to the exercise. Holding a vote on a GOP bill that would be killed by GOP votes would’ve needlessly put House Republicans in an awful position.

There’s no single explanation that captures why this fiasco ended this way, and a variety of factors contributed to this humiliating failure. Paul Ryan, for example, wrote a ridiculous piece of legislation behind closed doors, failed spectacularly to get any buy-in from stakeholders, couldn’t think of any substantive defenses, and had even more trouble leading his party’s factions.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, couldn’t be bothered to learn the basics of the debate, made no real effort to sell the plan’s purported merits to the public, and proved to be an abysmal deal-maker.

Republican divisions – there were never any core agreements within the party about why they were even pursuing a health care bill or the purpose of their legislation – are deeper than GOP leaders understood, and there’s been no meaningful effort to resolve them.

But let’s not overlook one of the more important factors: regular ol’ Americans stepped up in a big way, pressured lawmakers not to take their families’ health benefits away, and it made an enormous difference.

I’ll take these four factors in reverse order.

Republican divisions

One of the effects of the wrangling over Ryan’s Ripoff (aka Trumpcare) was to expose the deep rifts within the House Republicans. A new dynamic may be emerging in the House: A right and left flank within the GOP willing to buck leadership, the Washington Post reports. The net effect in the end was to position Reps, both conservative and moderate, against the bill. For example:

[Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio)] made a simple, binary choice about Obamacare: “The American Health Care Act was not a better solution.”

And it was not as bad as some wanted it to be.

[Trent Franks (R-AZ)] remained upset that conservative proposals were left out of the bill because they would have violated Senate budget rules, meaning that the proposal to replace the ACA was nowhere near to his liking.

The president and his negotiations

Riddle: What’s the difference between a closer and a loser?
Answer: the letter C.

Robert Costa, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker write ‘The closer’? The inside story of how Trump tried — and failed — to make a deal on health care in the Washington Post.

Shortly after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled the Republican health-care plan on March 6, President Trump sat in the Oval Office and queried his advisers: “Is this really a good bill?”

And over the next 18 days, until the bill collapsed in the House on Friday afternoon in a humiliating defeat — the sharpest rebuke yet of Trump’s young presidency and his negotiating skills — the question continued to nag at the president.

Even as he thrust himself and the trappings of his office into selling the health-care bill, Trump peppered his aides again and again with the same concern, usually after watching cable news reports chronicling the setbacks, according to two of his advisers: “Is this really a good bill?”

In the end, the answer was no — in part because the president himself seemed to doubt it.

But Trump’s effort was plagued from the beginning. The bill itself would have violated a number of Trump’s campaign promises, driving up premiums for millions of citizens and throwing millions more off health insurance — including many of the working-class voters who gravitated to his call to “make America great again.” Trump was unsure about the American Health Care Act, though he ultimately dug in for the win, as he put it.

But the closer lost.

Von Ryan’s Express

From Wiki: “Von Ryan’s Express is a World War II adventure film, released in 1965, about a group of Allied prisoners of war who conduct a daring escape by hijacking a freight train and fleeing through German-occupied Italy to Switzerland. It stars Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard, and is based on the novel by David Westheimer. It was directed by Mark Robson. The film changes several aspects of the novel, most notably the ending, which is considerably more upbeat in the book. It became one of Frank Sinatra’s most successful films.”

The film ends with Ryan (Sinatra) being gunned down by the Germans as he is running in an attempt to reach the departing train that is full of the soldiers Ryan helped liberate.

I mean this little story to elicit metaphors in each of your imaginations. You can imagine that the train is a stand-in for the House and neither Ryan ended up in control. (There was quarreling between the Brits and Americans in the movie.) Or you can imagine that the departing train represents a set of policies that Ryan never mastered. In either, Ryan was brought down by forces beyond his control. Play with it. Have fun. And then go get and watch the movie.

But the most important thing underlying the failure of Ryan’s AHCA was not the divisions in the House or Trump’s naiveté. It was the failure of the underlying philosophy writes New Yorker’s John Cassidy in The health-care debacle was a failure of conservatism that Ryan has for so long embraced.

In the coming days and weeks, there will be more … blame shifting, and, in truth, there is plenty of blame to go around. Ryan failed to unify the House Republican caucus. Trump’s staff allowed him to endorse a bill that made a mockery of his campaign pledge to provide health insurance for everybody. And Trump himself blundered into a political fiasco, apparently believing he could win over recalcitrant Republican members of Congress simply by popping over to Capitol Hill.

But this is just politics. The larger lesson here is that conservatism failed and social democracy won. After seven years of fulminating against the Affordable Care Act and promising to replace it with a more free-market-oriented alternative, the House Republicans—who are in the vanguard of the modern conservative movement—failed to come up with a workable and politically viable proposal. Obamacare survived, and that shouldn’t be so surprising. When it comes to health-care policy, there is no workable or politically viable conservative alternative.

Massive resistance derailed the Republican plan

We have not seen anything like it says Rachel Maddow. If you missed her program check it out at the link below.

Massive, nationwide protest changed course of GOP anti-ACA plan. Rachel Maddow looks at how massive, nationwide protest and resistance attached human stories to the consequences of repealing Obamacare and made the Republican legislative plan much more difficult. Duration: 12:50

Remember in November: A last word about Mean Martha

GV News reprinted this Cronkite News story this morning: Obamacare replacement fails; Arizona lawmakers say fight goes on. CD2 Rep. Martha McSally was on record saying she would vote for Ryan’s Ripoff. She has not changed. The ugliness of the so-called replacement has totally escaped her notice, perhaps because it is so over her head. Here is what she had to say.

Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson, who had voiced her support for the American Health Care Act after extracting concessions from Republican leaders on tax credits for the elderly and other issues, said that Obamacare “is still failing families in Arizona, and so the mission has not changed.”

“Whatever the legislative vehicle going forward, I will continue to strive towards better healthcare for my constituents,” McSally said in a statement released by her office.

This last Friday I posted The rich get richer and the poor get poorer under GOP’s unhealthy plan in which I quoted the impact stats should Ryan’s bill pass.

A memo from Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry dated March 22 says that if the American Health Care Act is enacted as drafted, it would end Medicaid for 380,000 Arizonans, including 57,000 people in Pima County.

Somehow, I guess, Mean Martha figures that ending health care for 57,000 of her constituents is “better healthcare.”

Remember in November.

ACTION ALERT: Ryan’s war on the safety net condemns the non-rich to poverty and sickness – and McSally is fine with that

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Here’s the call to action in case you are strapped for time. The House vote is scheduled tomorrow (Thursday) after a blitz from President Bully and the Grim Speaker. McSally is on record as voting for ACA repeal and against Planned Parenthood. She is a woman waging war on women. Go figure. So give her a piece of your mind.

For Email: https://mcsally.house.gov/contact/email
DC office phone: 202–225–2542
DC office fax: 202–225–0378
Tucson office phone: 520–881–3588
Tucson office fax: 520–322–9490

The New York Times economist explains What’s at Stake in a Health Bill That Slashes the Safety Net

Voters, pay attention. The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, will try to sell his plan by leveraging Americans’ atavistic fear of Big Government, offering people the freedom to choose whether to have health insurance. You may want to focus instead on what the United States stands to lose.

The list is long. Examples follow.

The American Health Care Act … is decidedly about cutting people off. David M. Cutler, an expert on the economics of health care at Harvard University, put it like this: “No other Congress or administration has ever put forward a plan with the intention of having fewer people covered.”

Under the House Republican plan, 24 million more Americans will lack health insurance by 2026, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Of those, 14 million will lose access to Medicaid and “choose” not to spend money — money they don’t have — on health insurance. Millions more near-poor people in their 50s and early 60s will likewise be left without a policy they can afford.

What will happen? Millions of Americans — poor ones, mainly — will use much less health care. They will make fewer outpatient visits, have fewer mammograms and cholesterol checks. Access to Medicaid in Oregon increased use of health care services by some 25 percent. Losing Medicaid is likely to reduce use by a similar amount.

I realize this sort of speculation can sound excessively dramatic for what is ultimately a change in health insurance. Yet it is worth remembering that among advanced nations, the United States is a laggard in life expectancy and has one of the highest infant mortality rates. Men and women in the United States die younger than those in other rich countries for all sorts of causes. American teenagers have more babies. American men go to jail more often.

Better health insurance will not solve all of this, of course. But it will help some of it. As noted in a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Americans are more likely than those in other high-income countries “to find their health care inaccessible or unaffordable and to report lapses in the quality and safety of care outside of hospitals.”

So why would our representatives vote to make matters even worse? Here’s a clue. “They might pause to consider the consequences of a strategy that so openly redistributes money from the poor to the rich.”