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    Sumner County Democratic Party

    TNDP News April 16th

    April 16th, 2018 by Andrew Hoover

    News clips – April 16th, 2018



    Tennessee senators applaud Trump on Syrian strikes, ask for future congressional involvement

    Corker says he won’t campaign against friend Bredesen



    Hunger, Healthcare, and the Economic Cruelty of Congressman Phil Roe


    Haslam makes final push for Medicaid expansion, Republicans quell proposal again



    Dean speaks at Democratic fish fry


    Tennessee senators applaud Trump on Syrian strikes, ask for future congressional involvement

    President Donald Trump was right to order air strikes in Syria after evidence emerged of a chemical weapons attack, said Tennessee’s U.S. senators.

    But Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both R-Tennessee, cautioned the president against taking future action in the country without involving Congress.

    “The precision strikes last night send a clear signal to the Syrian regime, and I applaud the president for following his words with action …” said Corker, who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    “Going forward, it is imperative that the administration engage directly with Congress and clearly communicate its plan to the American people.”

    A report issued Saturday by the French government concluded the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad carried out the April 7 chemical attack.

    A Corker spokeswoman confirmed the senator spoke with Trump earlier in the week about Syria, but declined to provide additional details about the conversation. Corker spoke Friday night with Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan.

    In a statement Saturday afternoon, Alexander said the strikes epitomized the country’s disgust at the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. But military action is not the only way to respond to the use of such weapons, Alexander said.

    “If the president intends for there to be a sustained U.S. military response in Syria, that requires the approval of Congress, according to our Constitution,” Alexander said.

    “During the congressional debate, I will assess whether additional military action would do more harm than good by setting off a chain of consequences that could involve American fighting men and women in another long-term Middle Eastern conflict.”

    There is a debate as to whether the president has the authority to order targeted strikes without the approval of Congress. Since 2001, presidents have interpreted a measure known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force to order strikes without the congressional go ahead.

    Corker is expected to hold hearings later this month to discuss the details of a possible new authorization bill, according to CNN and other media outlets.

    There are about 2,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, working as advisers to assist local anti-Islamic State fighters.

    Corker says he won’t campaign against friend Bredesen

    While retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., announced he’s contributed to expected GOP nominee Marsha Blackburn, the former Chattanooga mayor told a Washington magazine he won’t be out campaigning in November against her opponent, Democrat and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen.

    “I certainly do not plan to be working against somebody who is a friend and who has served our state ably,” Corker said of Bredesen, The National Journal reported. “We’ve worked together to build a great state.”

    Corker noted that as state finance commissioner in the mid-1990s for then-Republican Gov. Don Sundquist, he worked with then-Nashville Mayor Bredesen to bring the NFL’s Houston Oilers to Nashville, where the team is now known as the Tennessee Titans.

    And in 2008, Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor first elected in 2006 to the Senate, and Bredesen, then governor, worked together again to help bring Volkswagen’s auto assembly plant to Chattanooga.

    “He [Bredesen] is a very substantial person,” Corker told The National Journal. “And he no doubt will attract a lot of Republican votes.”

    “Look,” Corker said in the interview. “I think Gov. Bredesen would be good at almost anything he put his mind to doing. He did a very good job in business, he did a very good job as mayor [of Nashville], he did a very good job as governor. He’s been an outstanding public servant.”

    On a campaign swing in Jackson on Saturday, Bredesen said in a Times Free Press interview he “obviously was pleased” Corker won’t be campaigning against him. “I appreciate that from him. And the feeling is mutual.”

    As for the Blackburn campaign’s thoughts on Bredesen, they couldn’t be much clearer.

    “Phil Bredesen will be a solid vote for Chuck Schumer and Obama, Clinton-era liberal policies, and Tennesseans are not interested in that,” campaign spokeswoman Abbi Sigler wrote in an emailed response to a request for comment..


    Hunger, Healthcare, and the Economic Cruelty of Congressman Phil Roe

    Following a speech on the House Floor, Rep. Phil Roe just distributed a constituent newsletter announcing that the Congressional Budget Office recently issued an “alarming projection about future budget deficits.”   

    Roe’s newsletter goes on to recite misleading statistics that are not adjusted for inflation or for overall very substantial increases in Gross Domestic Product. He even asks voters to swallow numbers that involve basic math errors, such as his erroneous claim that a doubling of mandatory program spending over 14 years reflects a rate of increase of 7.5% per year. Roe appears to have made the financial rookie mistake of dividing 14 into 100 to get a rate of increase, which even then overstates because the result is 7.1%, not 7.5%. Roe’s calculation misleads because it does not consider the effect of compounding. If spending doubled in 14 years, then the rate of increase, taking into account compounding, is given by the Rule of 72, a basic financial tool used to estimate the time required to double a sum at a given rate of increase. Properly calculated, the rate of increase to double a sum in 14 years is 5.1%, or about 32% less than Roe’s purported 7.5% figure, not including any appropriate correction for inflation.

    Having first embraced alternative math facts, Roe then concludes that because of this “alarming” CBO deficit report, he is more convinced than ever that we must have a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    Dear Rep. Roe — the deficit is not news. Perhaps you were sleeping when the CBO said the same thing back in 2017 before you voted for an unfair and budget-busting tax giveaway to corporations and the rich?

    I’m not going to use this space to review all the reasons why Roe’s particular Constitutional proposal is a terrible idea. Each time Roe’s preferred version of a balanced budget amendment is raised anew from the dead, expert economists rally to explain how it is based on false premises and flawed analogies and how it would cause immense harm by promoting economic vicious cycles that:

    • make recessions deeper and longer,
    • increase unemployment during bad times,
    • leave states and cities without key federal support that is essential to balancing their budgets,
    • undermine the operation of Social Security, Medicare, and federal military and civil retirement,
    • threaten operation of the programs that insure  bank deposits and non-federal pensions when financial institutions fail.

    For readers interested in a deeper understanding of what Roe wants our country to do, the non-profit, non-partisan Center on Budget Policy and Priorities publishes an excellent detailed analysis.

    Fortunately, the measure that Roe advocates failed once again. Its defeat has become so routine that some observers suggest it is a “supreme act of hypocrisy” not really offered in good faith. If that is true, then Roe’s entire narrative is classic demagoguery.

    If Roe was serious about reducing our deficit, as he should be, then he might abandon his simple-minded and reckless proposal and get behind something intelligent, like Switzerland’s system (which happens to be based on a Constitutional requirement). Switzerland, an international model of economic prudence, recognizes that economies have cycles and that responsible governments must have flexibility to adjust so that the ups and downs don’t result in harmful extremes. So, rather than insisting that revenues and expenses match exactly every year, as Roe’s Constitutional amendment would require, Switzerland balances its budget with a longer-term method that takes into account necessary short-term adjustments for changing economic conditions and cycles. Expansionary policy (deficit spending) is allowed during recessions or other national emergency; but if Swiss lawmakers want to be able to spend during recessions, then they must pay for this spending by saving during better times.

    Of course something like the Swiss approach requires self-discipline, which Roe apparently thinks is impossible unless there is a rigid compulsion. In his words:

    [Addressing budget deficits] will require hard choices, but Congress will only make those hard choices if it’s forced to. [bold emphasis added]

    Roe never gets around to explaining who would enforce his proposed Constitutional amendment or what would happen if spending broke the rules. Would our already cumbersome national budget process become subject to further gridlock and delay from lawsuits? What would enforcement by the courts look like, it if was even possible? How would financial markets survive the uncertainty of Constitutional challenges to the budget?

    A simpler and more direct way to “force” Congress to behave responsibly is to hold its members accountable and refuse to re-elect incumbents who are afraid or unwilling to actually do their job, even when it is most important.

    Roe misleads his constituents with economic statistics to argue, unbelievably, that the huge tax cut for which he voted has nothing to do with future deficits. To support his phony economic reasoning, Roe says Federal revenues are at a high point. Yes, but so what? Deficits result from a mismatch between revenue and spending, not from the absolute level of revenue.

    Also, Roe fails to mention that prior to the 2016 election, federal deficits had been falling quite dramatically, and could have fallen further if tax revenues had been left alone. The government can’t save to be ready for bad times if, as soon as things start to improve, revenues are reduced with a tax cut.

    At the same time that he complains that federal revenues are too high, Roe simultaneously argues that his tax cuts will stimulate economic activity, and result in even higher revenues. Huh? It makes no sense for Roe to first argue that tax revenues are too high and then to argue that tax cuts are good because tax revenues will be driven even higher (or so he shamelessly predicts, even though his underlying economic trickle-down theory has been thoroughly dis-proven by nightmare failures).

    Roe says that he wants  government budgets to operate more like family finances. This is a hopelessly flawed analogy — but, accepting it for purposes of discussion, then doesn’t this analogy point directly away from Roe’s actual choices and actions? Instead of cutting taxes, shouldn’t Roe have focused on assuring that the government maintains its revenues so it can pay down its debts and save during good times for a future rainy day? No family in its financial right mind voluntarily cuts its income just because it has a good year. A financially responsible family pays down its debts, sets any extra money aside as a safety cushion, and tries to make sure that its income is stable or better, growing, and in any case sufficient to take care of expected future expenses.

    The worst part of Roe’s bogus economic analysis is its wicked inhumanity. If Roe had voted to keep taxes where they were, the wealthy might have had less money to spend on mansions, yachts, and private airplanes, but the government could have made progress in paying off its debts, perhaps returning us to an era of federal budget surpluses last seen in 2001. Of course, that was before we were all misled into an extraordinarily expensive war based on false administration statements about threats from non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

    Instead of staying the course and allowing increased revenues from the economic recovery to gradually address our debts, Roe cruelly wants to balance the federal budget on the backs and bellies of ordinary people. He would do this by making it harder to afford basic necessities of life, such as subsistence income, healthcare, and food. To this end, Roe’s message plainly identifies what he thinks are key items for spending cuts: pensions, Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, and Social Security.

    Roe’s harsh suggestion that Congress should cut earned benefits and safety-net programs directly threatens all the people who depend on them. And that is a large number of people. For example:

    Rep. Roe apparently would rather decrease our basic lifeline security than require corporations and the rich to continue paying taxes as they have in the past. Tennessee is in the Bible-belt, and our values support a tradition of helping our neighbors in times of need — but there are not enough churches to make up the safety-net shortfall that Roe’s incomprehensible austerity could impose on our communities.

    Ironically, Roe’s targets for spending cuts also threaten Tennessee’s own balanced state and municipal budgets, since Tennessee is among the states whose economies receive substantially more back from the federal government than we pay in federal taxes.

    In addition to his tax-cut for the wealthy, Roe’s pattern of giving federal dollars to the most well-off at the expense of his own constituents also appears in his 2013 vote for the deceptively named “Full Faith and Credit Act.” This law established priorities for federal spending when the federal debt limit is reached — and the plan for which Roe voted assured that foreign creditors such as China, Japan, and OPEC countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia would continue to get their money even as payments to American citizens for earned benefits such as Social Security or VA benefits could be reduced or stopped.

    The good people of Tennessee will face a clear choice in this November’s election. We can vote for transparent no B.S. straight-talk, or we can return to office an incumbent who is rarely willing to speak truth to power, who counts on people voting on automatic pilot, and whose newsletters and other communications assume that voters will not take the time to think critically about his superficial, misleading, and even inhumane policy arguments.

    Thinking in particular of his targeting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, perhaps it is time for us Tennessee voters to bite Rep. Roe’s hand, so to speak, before he votes to stop feeding us?

    Responsible Change starts at home, one vote at a time, and it depends on each of us standing up to do our part.

    I’m off my butt, standing up, and ready to do my part. How about you?

    Fleischmann sitting pretty so far in 3rd Congressional District with nearly $1.1 million in bank

    Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann had $1.09 million sitting in his bank account March 31 as the Ooltewah Republican seeks a fifth term representing Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District against a field of lesser-known Republicans and one Democrat.

    By comparison, his only Republican rival in the Aug. 2 GOP primary who had reported as of early Sunday evening, Jeremy Massengale of Cleveland, said his cash on hand at the end of the Jan. 1 through March 31 reporting period was just $396.80.

    Meanwhile, Dr. Danielle Mitchell, a Hixson physician and Democrat, reported her cash balance was $69,565 at the end of the first quarter.

    Candidates’ campaign financial disclosures were due to the Federal Election Commission by midnight Sunday. No FEC filings were available for Republicans “Mr. Jim” Elkins of Chattanooga or Harold E. Shevlin of Ooltewah. Republican William E. Spurlock Sr. of Chattanooga only announced earlier this month after the end of the first-quarter reporting period.

    For the second straight cycle, Fleischmann has avoided a well-known challenger. His first 2010 GOP primary became a ferocious free for all, which he won. The seat strongly leans Republican. Later, he faced challenges in two successive GOP primaries, both of which featured Weston Wamp, the son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga.

    During the first quarter, Fleischmann, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee and four of the panel’s subcommittees, pulled in another $97,750 in contributions with political action committee donations outnumbering his individual donors by nearly 3-1 or $72,000 to $25,750.

    But in terms of the overall 2018 election cycle, Fleischmann’s individual donors out-gave PACs.

    Cycle-to-date, Fleischmann reported raking in $483,082 from individuals while $290,875 came from special-interest PACs.

    His PAC contributions included $1,000 from the National Rifle Association. An executive as well as a PAC associated with Bechtel, which is among companies holding federal contracts with the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, gave as well. Bechtel’s national general manager, John Howanitz, contributed $2,700 during the first quarter, bringing his total giving to $5,400 during the 2018 cycle.

    Bechtel’s PAC, meanwhile, contributed $2,500. Oak Ridge is in the 3rd Congressional District and contractors have been a source of political contributions going back at least to then-U.S. Rep. Marilyn Lloyd, a Chattanooga Democrat.

    Individual donors included James Clayton, owner of Knoxville-based Clayton Homes, a manufactured housing company, who gave $1,500. Closer to home, Baines Global Network executive assistant Tom Jarrell of Ooltewah contributed $2,500 last quarter, bringing his total giving to $5,200.

    Dave Larson, a one-time U.S. Senate staffer who now heads the American Capitol Group, a lobbying firm, contributed $1,000. Jeffrey Miller, the senior counsel for Leidos Engineering, which does work at Y-12, gave $500.

    But Fleischmann’s largest donor in the first quarter came from a now-lame duck. House Speaker Paul Ryan, through his Prosperity Action leadership PAC, gave the congressman $10,000.

    By comparison, Democrat Mitchell reported raising $61,425 in the first quarter. After spending $22,337, she had $69,565 in the bank and $8,956 in obligations. Individuals gave $53,916.50 while Mitchell put in another $7,509 herself. She’s raised a total of $111,229 during the 2018 cycle, spending $42,664.

    Mitchell has received support from a number of fellow physicians, including Dr. Frank Knight of Chattanooga, who gave $2,500, and Dr. Martin Redish of Harrison. Retired attorney Deborah Williams of Signal Mountain gave a total of $5,400 with $2,700 for the Democratic primary and another $2,700 for the general election.

    Long-time Democratic donor Olan Mills II, whose family owned the national portrait studio, gave $2,700 last quarter, bringing his total contributions for both the primary and general to $5,400.

    Mitchell’s largest single expenditure was $5,000 which went to a Washington, D.C., technical consultant who helped set up her campaign management services system.

    Fleischmann’s biggest first quarter expenditure was $8,985 to the Gula Graham Group, which does his fundraising. Another $7,500 went to accountants. Meanwhile, the congressman has picked up a new political consultant, Baker Group Strategies.

    The firm is headed by Ward Baker, a Tennessean who in the 2016 election cycle served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Baker widely was credited with helping the GOP hold on to its Senate majority.

    The 3rd District includes the lower counties Hamilton, Polk, McMinn, and Monroe as well as the southern half of Bradley County. Northern counties are Anderson, Roane, Scott, Morgan and Union counties, as well as most of Campbell County.


    Haslam makes final push for Medicaid expansion, Republicans quell proposal again


    It could have been a legacy-defining moment for Tennessee’s 49th governor, but the state legislature’s Republican supermajority wasn’t having it in 2015.


    They’re still not having it in 2018.


    News broke Friday, as reported by the Tennessean, that Gov. Bill Haslam assembled House and Senate leaders behind closed doors for what seemed to be another nonchalant weekly meeting, only this time, Haslam — with just eight months left on his term — had an audacious, yet familiar request:

    Will Republican leadership support one last push to extend federally funded health care coverage to the thousands of low-income Tennesseans who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but do not generate enough income to qualify for subsidies through the Affordable Care Act marketplace?


    Not a single Northeast Tennessee lawmaker was in attendance at the meeting; not Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe, nor Republican Assistant Leader David Hawk, who often works close to the Haslam administration.


    Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell, who is vying to become Haslam’s replacement, did attend the gathering, and both were reportedly open to renewing discussion about Medicaid expansion.


    However, House Majority Leader Glen Casada and others were reportedly “reticent” and stymied any talk about Medicaid expansion from leaving the conference room, the Tennessean reported, citing interviews with seven people familiar with the meeting.


    “At this particular meeting, a number of issues surrounding Medicaid were discussed and Dr. Wendy Long, director of TennCare, was there as a resource to address questions. However, no specific proposal was discussed and there is no current plan to call a special session to consider Medicaid expansion,” Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals wrote in a statement to the Johnson City Press.

    Reached by phone on Friday, Crowe said he was unaware of the meeting, since he apparently wasn’t invited, but he did say he was open to Haslam’s proposal.


    “Now that all the Obama stuff has died down, if (Haslam) tried his Insure Tennessee again, it might pass because it’s a market-based plan. It’s a personal responsibility plan. You have to do something to get something,” said Crowe, who helped pass the proposal out of his committee in 2015.

    Unveiled just before the 2015 session, Haslam’s initial plan would use federal funding to provide insurance to Tennesseans that fall between the income gap, although the participants would have to meet various personal responsibility requirements.


    Based on the initial proposal, federal dollars would have paid for Insure Tennessee’s first 1.5 years, but those payments would decline each year until reaching 90 percent of the cost, at which point Tennessee would begin paying the balance.


    Crowe said much of the Republican opposition against Insure Tennessee was based wholly upon the perception that the Affordable Care Act was unstable and the federal government might struggle sustaining its payments for the program.


    “But the atmosphere is different now and I do think it’s good. This governor is leaving, but it would be a good time to bring it back up so the next governor will know it’s something that’s being talked about,” Crowe said.


    Johnson City’s Republican senator isn’t the only Medicaid expansion advocate, as Ballad Health Executive Chairman Alan Levine openly supported Insure Tennessee in a February 2015 column published in the Knoxville News Sentinel.


    “Ballad Health supports Medicaid expansion because it would benefit the most vulnerable population we serve. Access to coverage would foster economic development for all of our region, helping individuals get back to work and raising the quality of life for residents,” according to a Ballad Health statement.

    “Those who have access to healthcare coverage are more likely to seek preventive care, which in turn improves quality of life and lowers healthcare costs for everyone.”


    While his efforts to pass Medicaid expansion haven’t gone unnoticed, Haslam will surely linger on this unfulfilled goal for years to come once after leaving the governor’s, even going so far as calling its failure his “biggest disappointment.”


    Dean speaks at Democratic fish fry


    There was no stump around. So, Karl Dean, former mayor of Nashville, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate climbed up on the next best thing.

    Dean stood on a picnic table Saturday, telling members of the Hamblen County Democratic Party that he is pro-business and pro-education.

    “People want to see a government that’s not bickering, fighting, working on issues they have no control over, they want a government that gets something done,” he said.

    Dean stopped by for the Hamblen County Democratic Party Catfish and Turkey Fry at Cherokee Park. Also in attendance were former state Rep. Ken Givens, who was also former Commissioner of Agriculture under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, and Democratic County Commission challengers Nicholas Knight and Christy Cowan.

    Dean is running in the August primary against fellow Democrat state Rep., Craig Fitzhugh, who is the minority leader in the state house of representatives.

    So far, Dean has raised about $1.2 million in election funds and spent around $200,000.

    This is the second time he’s been to Hamblen County since entering the race.

    Dean said he thinks he can reach voters in Hamblen County because he is a moderate candidate that can reach out to both sides and he thinks that is the kind of politician Tennessee voters like.

    “I think they want someone who’s practical, has common sense, moderate and gets things done,” he said.

    He said one thing he would want to strive for is see Medicaid expansion. He said there is money being left on the table.

    “We get less than other states and it’s hurting us,” he said.

    He said the drug problem is a prime example of how not expanding Medicaid has hurt Tennesseans and is hurting being able to provide necessary services.

    Givens, who came to speak for Bredesen, said his old boss is “tried and tested” and is an independent who would serve all Tennesseans.

    “He’s not going to Washington to fight anyone,” Givens said. “President Trump is the President. If Trump proposes things that are good for Tennessee, then Phil Bredesen will go with it. If it’s not good for Tennessee, that’s who he represents.”

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