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Monthly Archives: December 2016

The past election and current political news(?) coupled with the International issues have created a perfect storm of misinformation and potential mistakes yet to be made. Our new Government lead by the Conservative GOP will be scrutinized closely by all. Our part as voters is to simply pay attention to who we have elected , especially from the State to federal levels as these are the people who have and can do us (the voters) the most harm. No matter what you think your politics are, the elected officials we have in place are on a different path and have been for many years. Each person we elect is a cheerleader at first, once elected or reelected become part of the political system in order to get along. No matter what is said on the campaign trail, the reality of the political network colors what these folks do. In a correct Democracy this is not a bad idea but under the current system our Congress for the most part are no more than long term servers who do not serve anyone aside from themselves. If we look back at the many times the Congressional leaders have uttered words that should make us “woke”, we still ( some of us) believe or trust them. I am of the opinion that no matter how long a person has served in Congress, they are still not necessarily the best choice election after election. Each election cycle should have us looking at the incumbents with fresh eyes and with some idea of what they have done and said prior to that election cycle. Governing is a hard job and the higher you go , the harder it gets. Unfortunately our Congress has more of a “wait until you present something then I will critique it publicly”, rather than evaluate and alter it as needed to make it better for all of us. Through all of this, The congress still collects a 6 figure salary for less than a full year of work, enjoy a very nice medical and retirement package. It is the duty of each one of us to pay attention through what ever media source you choose to keep an eye on our elected officials and listen to them with filters that hopefully reveal the truth. I encourage all to forget party lines and labels, get the truth and vote for real. What we need are more doers and not headline seekers in Congress.

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It is difficult to write about this past national election. The over the top rhetoric ( as defined: the art of  using words effectively  or showy, elaborate language that is empty or insincere) has allowed Mr. Trump to prevail with the oft stated idea that “he tells it like it is”. It is unfortunate that this statement or sense of what he says is all it takes to get support from voters. The real messages are lost even when they are plainly out of line, impractical or outright lies. The basis of Mr. Trumps surge to the top is simply the failure of the two existing parties (Scamocrats and Dupublicans) to do their jobs. This almost all having to do with the Congress. We have lost sight of the real problems in Government. The once noble members of Congress have stated their fight for their constituents while denying or not pursuing better health care, correct taxing scales, protection from predatory companies of all sorts. Looking at health care: the members of government have a healthcare plan that would be considered a “Cadillac plan”, they will have a nice comfortable pension and have in office perks (franking privileges (postage free mailing).  It is difficult for me to believe how few of us understand how Congress is paid and the benefits of the office. We spend too much time on the “big” election and not enough on the smaller ones or we vote party lines. The folks we have put in office time after time have come to expect your vote, not earn it. If we do not start examining the work of the Congress and how it affects us all, we will soon see the same failures as we have seen in the past. How many remember that the Congress that was in place when President Obama was elected stated” that this President will get nothing passed “. Those “nothings” are laws that affect us all in some way. All of this was along party lines with fancy subtitles such as “Conservative or Liberal”. We as voters need to forget the labels and vote what ever party you want but not be fooled by the same sound bites and buzzwords that mean nothing and gain us even less. If as a voter you identify only with one party without looking at individuals in that party then you are certainly giving up your voting rights and power.

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It quite apparent that Illinois has deep woes. The Governor and the Leader Madigan are waging a head to head fight using the citizens as fodder. The reality is that these two have failed to understand that no one suffers more than the people. Take the State of Illinois as a precursor to a “businessman” leading the country. Too many people are drawn in by the “running the state (or country) as a business”. This does not work as the “business man” has the mindset of “I’m the boss”. That does not work in government where you have a body of legislators that enact or veto laws. The obvious rift between the Governor and Mr. Madigan will never be healed until it is, meanwhile the State has no budget and I blame the Governor since previous Opposing party Governors were able to get things done (not like a business). My opinion is: we need to get a Governor in place who “gets it” and a speaker who can make a better effort to show him how to “get it”. The past elections have shown how much the Governor can spend to get his way, I would posit the idea of using those millions as tax-deductible donations to the State. We (the citizens of Illinois) need to wake up and pay close attention to who we elect beginning NOW!  All election mistakes can be corrected with the next elections. We are the people in charge.

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The two prominent political pundits, explainers and almost human talking heads have uttered (and probably will continue to) statements that are geared more to incite voters more than inform. Without them we would never know how people in the spotlight can influence opinion through faux news and information. Apparently Mr. O’Reilly is in the camp of the alt-right.  MA

Newt Gingrich and Bill O’Reilly are both well known pundits(?) who take to the airwaves at any opportunity to use their celebrity to tout crap! Recently Gingrich offered explanations that Mr. Trump has decided to stop using the “drain the swamp” statement since the Donald was “over it”. Mr. Gingrich is called a Trump ally but it may be more like a self appointed explainer.

This from Mr. O’Reilly:
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said efforts to abolish the Electoral College system are “all about race.”

O’Reilly said on “The O’Reilly Factor” Tuesday night there is a “hidden reason” for liberals seeking to change the system.

“If the Electoral College were abolished, presidential candidates could simply campaign in the nation’s largest cities, New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston,” he said. “And rack up enough votes to pretty much win any election.”

O’Reilly claimed Democrats wanted to campaign only in cities where “the minority vote usually goes heavily to the Democrats,” effectively “neutralizing the largely white rural areas in the Midwest and the South.”

“Very few commentators will tell you that the heart of liberalism in America is based on race,” O’Reilly said. “It permeates almost every issue – that white men have set up a system of oppression and that system must be destroyed.”

O’Reilly said that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and to some extent nominee Hillary Clinton, peddled the idea that “so-called white privilege bad, diversity good.”

“The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with,” he said.

Summing up his argument, O’Reilly said, “The left wants power taken away from the white establishment, and they want a profound change in the way America is run.”

Calls to abolish the Electoral College have been mounting since Clinton lost the election to President-elect Donald Trump, despite winning nearly 3 million more votes than him. She ended up with a total of 227 Electoral College votes to his 304 – five electors who were supposed to vote for Clinton defected and voted for someone else on Monday, while two refused to cast their ballots for Trump.


Here again the failure of the GOP to fully understand and assist in the creation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), The GOP effectively denied coverage for many due to their political goals being put ahead of the public good.MA
Rita Numerof, PhD, president of Numerof & Associates
22 Hours Ago

As Republicans in Washington get set to reshape national health-care policy, it is critical that the surrounding debate distinguishes between two related but distinct issues: access to coverage and access to care.
In other areas of policy, we understand this distinction. We know that the issues of homelessness and affordable housing are linked, but not the same. Solutions for one are not automatically fixes for the other. We see the same thing with other basic health issues like food security and nutrition.
Only in health care do we consider the decades-long challenge of delivering high-quality and cost-efficient care “solved” once everyone nominally has access to some sort of insurance.

But real health-care reform is not just about coverage. Getting people into exchange plans they can barely afford, with heavy (and increasing) deductibles and taxpayer-funded subsidies, is a “homeless shelter” fix. It’s better than being on the streets — for sure — but a homeless shelter isn’t a home any more than a high-deductible “bronze” plan is a real health-care solution for a family that can barely afford to pay the rest of its bills.
If we want to fix this system, it’s time to get serious about replacing fee-for-service provider reimbursement with approaches that link costs to outcomes, like bundled payments and population health.

Health care in a post-Obamacare world: Centene CEO
Thursday, 15 Dec 2016 | 7:15 AM ET | 04:50
“If we are serious about reform, we need to move beyond the current obsession with coverage to a real debate about accountability, transparency, cost and quality.”
The Obama administration has pushed forward on several value-based care initiatives, but one of the most striking success stories we’ve had occurred under the previous Republican administration.
In 2008, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) announced it would no longer pay for so-called never events — preventable incidents like hospital falls or objects left in patients after surgery that should never happen in modern health-care delivery organizations.
This first meaningful connection between payment and outcomes led directly to a 17 percent decline in hospital-acquired conditions from 2012 to 2013. Notably, it took financial incentives/consequences before this happened.
Unfortunately, there are worrisome signs that the incoming Trump administration is less committed to the idea of value-based care. It will be important to differentiate between the baby (payment reform) and the bathwater (onerous regulations and reporting requirements) if we’re ever going to get to true value in health care.
A second key goal for reform is more in keeping with Trump’s campaign messages. Unwinding the existing incentives for consolidation would help preserve the competitiveness of many local markets, and thereby protect working-class families. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) established a bureaucratic labyrinth of new organizational structures, regulations and incentives.
Rather than focusing on the capabilities and culture needed to move toward better outcomes at lower cost, providers and payers have been compelled to invest in new staff and technologies to comply with all these new regulations.
On the provider side, this effort spawned a flood of consolidation, with health-care delivery systems buying or affiliating with other systems, and physicians seeking refuge in employment from proliferating bureaucracy. A grave danger we face as a nation is that all these systems become too big to fail — and, more importantly, too big to care.
Finally, it is past time to require transparency of cost and outcomes, so consumers can make informed choices about their care. Having awareness that not every hospital is performing equally well allows consumers to make judicious decisions, an important first step toward a true market-based health-care system.
Health care is an issue that affects all Americans. It costs too much, it is piecemeal, there is little accountability for outcomes, and it is not consumer-centered.
In virtually every other industry, consumer demand drives service providers and product manufacturers to improve quality and compete on price. In contrast, the approach in health care has always been to try to reduce costs by manipulating organizational structures — as with HMOs or Accountable Care Organizations — while leaving in place the original sin of fee-for-service provider reimbursement.
This will always incentivize volume-driven care decisions, not a focus on outcomes.
If we are serious about reform, we need to move beyond the current obsession with coverage to a real debate about accountability, transparency, cost and quality.
Commentary by Rita Numerof, PhD, president of Numerof & Associates, a firm that helps businesses across the health-care sector define and implement strategies for winning in dynamic markets.

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The election of 2015 has brought so many twists and turns as to be quite dizzying to most of us and with that in mind too many have gone back to the mindset that that is the end of that. However this is just the beginning. Mr. Trump has allowed the rise of prior administration workers, former (and disgraced) legislators. These backgrounders who have seized on the Trump outbursts and election are the same people who  have created some of the worst legislation in our history. Newt Gingrich has appointed himself as explainer in chief for Donald Trump along with Kelly Anne  Conway, et al.  The tweet fest that has become the apparent norm for this President seems to indicate an inability to construct a coherent sentence. I expect we may see more campaign type speeches  herein from this administration. The worry is more about the Neer do well Congress who will do less for us since there is an expectation of being able to manipulate the President and his actions (maybe). If Mr. Binks (Trump) continues as is, the swamp may be drained along with loss of the necessary parts of that swamp that helps maintain our way of life. Some offshoots of the Trump win: re-emergence of Klan activity, Nazi like groups and anti-Jewish, black, and catholic rhetoric. It should be noted that  even Glenn Beck is appalled at the Trump emergence and has spoken out against it. The way to regain control of the Government by the people is to pay attention to who you put in Congress as these are the people who have and can do us the most harm! As an example: The ACA-the Congress doesn’t have the concern about your lack of coverage as they are completely covered with the Government medical system which they pay into. Any changes in the ACA that affects you has no affect on their coverage. Forget the rhetoric and pay attention to who you put in Congress and be prepared to in elect them if necessary. Remember those we elect are only your friend when running for the office.

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Mitch the Turtle is again refusing to do his job, aside from his failure to denounce his President elect’s antics, he has in the past allowed his constituents (coal miners) to die without lifting a finger and not telling the truth about the future of coal and coal related diseases . This is just another mealy mouthed politician milking the system.MA

By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press
4 hrs ago

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is rejecting bipartisan calls for a special committee to investigate Russian interference in the U.S. election, which American intelligence says was aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The likely meddling by Russia “is a serious issue, but it doesn’t require a select committee,” said McConnell, R-Ky. The Senate intelligence committee is able to investigate the matter, he added.
CIA Director John Brennan has said the intelligence community is in agreement that Russia tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, although there’s no evidence Moscow succeeded in helping Trump win.
“There’s no question that the Russians were messing around in our election,” McConnell told Kentucky Educational Television on Monday night. “It is a matter of genuine concern and it needs to be investigated.”
Still, McConnell said the issue should be investigated in “regular order” by the Senate intelligence panel, which is “fully capable of handling this.”
McConnell’s comments put him at odds with Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republicans who have joined with incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in calling for a special committee to investigate efforts by Russia, China and Iran to interfere in U.S. elections.
A select committee is a high-profile panel created by congressional leaders that taps lawmakers from a variety of committees to focus on a single issue, such as Watergate or the Iran-contra arms deal.
McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Russian interference in the election threatens to “destroy democracy,” adding that a select committee is needed to find out exactly what Russia did and what effect it had on the election.
“We need to get to the bottom of this,” McCain said. “We need to find out exactly what was done and what the implications of the attacks were, especially if they had an effect on our election.”
He said: “There’s no doubt they were interfering and no doubt that it was cyberattacks. The question now is how much and what damage and what should the United States of America do? And so far, we have been totally paralyzed.”
Trump has called reports of Russian hacking “ridiculous,” and his transition team dismissed the CIA assessment, saying it was the work of the same people who claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invaded.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the investigation must be bipartisan.
“We don’t want this investigation to be political like the Benghazi investigation,” he said. “We don’t want it to just be finger pointing at one person or another.” Schumer added: “We want to find out what the Russians are doing to our political system and what other foreign governments might do to our political system. And then figure out a way to stop it.”
McCain, Schumer and other senators say a select committee is needed to “reconcile contradictory information” and give the issue needed focus.
In the interview with KET’s Bill Goodman, McConnell spoke of his surprise at the election’s outcome.
“I thought we’d come up short” in the Senate, McConnell said. “And I didn’t think President Trump had a chance of winning.”
Trump won in part because he was able to connect with rural voters in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that had previously voted for Democrats, McConnell said.
“Trump was able to convey — oddly enough a message from a billionaire who lives in Manhattan — a genuine concern for people who felt kind of left off, who felt offended by all the political correctness they see around them,” he said.

This past election has shown how narrowly focused many people are about Government and the people they elect. Any government and the elected representatives should ( and many times do) have to look at the whole picture involved in regulations on anything that affects us. Each area of the country have at once different and the same issues. These issues cannot be considered in a microcosm. While the coal miners have issues with health issues related to coal miners (with fierce fights on that issue), there has been no real information regarding the effect of Fracking on the coal industry. Fracking with its side effects has driven the price of gas and oil down relegating coal to a side line thus reducing the working mines to a fraction of the output they once had. This reduction has caused the decline in mine work and workers with no assistance from the representatives of these areas save a mouth full of blame on someone else. It would appear to me that these representatives should have been investigating or advocating for the Affordable Care act aka “Obamacare” which has a provision for the care and treatment of the mine workers who contract Black Lung Disease. It appears that some of these legislators have failed their own constituents in not recognizing the unhealthy conditions that they have to work under. When several mines closed  the workers were left without jobs yet none of the elected dim wits sought to get or institute any retraining and  maintain health services. They did have time to block anything the President was doing while fostering the notion that He was “killing coal”, it seems now that coal is killing the miners but the Legislators are still standing on the sidelines now hoping a Trump Presidency will allow them to continue their nefarious ways. It is unfortunate that big Coal has bought and paid for the lives of the miners through “gifts” to the Lawmakers. It would be interesting to see what the lives of the Mine owners are like compared to the mine workers. The elections have shown that politicians and candidates focused narrowly in each area  to maximize their vote count even though that focus was inadequately represented in rallies and meetings. Essentially “ALL politicians and candidates LIE! to get what they need to gain office! These lies no matter what small truth is used as a lead in to get your attention are still just lies and do not nor will not benefit the people of the United States.

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Informative article on the beginnings of the internet and its subsequent misuse/ abuse. It is a slightly dry read but worth going through and if you think you know it all then you definitely need to read this. MA

Published on December 14, 2016

Walter Isaacson
CEO at Aspen Institute
My big idea is that we have to fix the internet. After forty years, it has begun to corrode, both itself and us. It is still a marvelous and miraculous invention, but now there are bugs in the foundation, bats in the belfry, and trolls in the basement.
I do not mean this to be one of those technophobic rants dissing the Internet for rewiring our brains to give us the twitchy attention span of Donald Trump on Twitter or pontificating about how we have to log off and smell the flowers. Those qualms about new technologies have existed ever since Plato fretted that the technology of writing would threaten memorization and oratory. I love the internet and all of its digital offshoots. What I bemoan is its decline.
There is a bug in its original design that at first seemed like a feature but has gradually, and now rapidly, been exploited by hackers and trolls and malevolent actors: its packets are encoded with the address of their destination but not of their authentic origin. With a circuit-switched network, you can track or trace back the origins of the information, but that’s not true with the packet-switched design of the internet.
Compounding this was the architecture that Tim Berners-Lee and the inventors of the early browsers created for the World Wide Web. It brilliantly allowed the whole of the earth’s computers to be webbed together and navigated through hyperlinks. But the links were one-way. You knew where the links took you. But if you had a webpage or piece of content, you didn’t exactly know who was linking to you or coming to use your content.
All of that enshrined the potential for anonymity. You could make comments anonymously. Go to a webpage anonymously. Consume content anonymously. With a little effort, send email anonymously. And if you figured out a way to get into someone’s servers or databases, you could do it anonymously.
For years, the benefits of anonymity on the Net outweighed its drawbacks. People felt more free to express themselves, which was especially valuable if they were dissidents or hiding a personal secret. This was celebrated in the famous 1993 New Yorker cartoon, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”
Now the problem is nobody can tell if you’re a troll. Or a hacker. Or a bot. Or a Macedonian teenager publishing a story that the Pope has endorsed Trump.
This has poisoned civil discourse, enabled hacking, permitted cyberbullying, and made email a risk. Its inherent lack of security has allowed Russian actors to screw with our democratic process.
The lack of secure identification and authentication inherent in the internet’s genetic code has also prevented easy transactions, thwarted financial inclusion, destroyed the business models of content creators, unleashed deluges of spam, and forced us to use passwords and two-factor authentication schemes that would have baffled Houdini.
The trillions being spent and the IQ points of computer science talent being allocated to tackle security issues makes it a drag, rather than a spur, to productivity in some sectors.
In Plato’s Republic, we learn the tale of the Ring of Gyges. Put it on, and you’re invisible and anonymous. The question that Plato asks is whether those who put on the ring will be civil and moral. He thinks not. The Internet has proven him correct.
The Web is no longer a place of community, no longer an agora. Every day more sites are eliminating comments sections.
If we could start from scratch, here’s what I think we would do:
Create a system that enables content producers to negotiate with aggregators and search engines to get a royalty whenever their content is used, like ASCAP has negotiated for public performances and radio airings of its members’ works.
Embed a simple digital wallet and currency for quick and easy small payments for songs, blogs, articles, and whatever other digital content is for sale.
Encode emails with an authenticated return or originating address.
Enforce critical properties and security at the lowest levels of the system possible, such as in the hardware or in the programming language, instead of leaving it to programmers to incorporate security into every line of code they write.
Build chips and machines that update the notion of an internet packet. For those who want, their packets could be encoded or tagged with metadata that describe what they contain and give the rules for how it can be used.
Most internet engineers think that these reforms are possible, from Vint Cerf, the original TCP/IP coauthor, to Milo Medin of Google, to Howard Shrobe, the director of cybersecurity at MIT. “We don’t need to live in cyber hell,” Shrobe has argued.
Implementing them is less a matter of technology than of cost and social will. Some people, understandably, will resist any diminution of anonymity, which they sometimes label privacy.
So the best approach, I think, would be to try to create a voluntary system, for those who want to use it, to have verified identification and authentication.
People would not be forced to use such a system. If they wanted to communicate and surf anonymously, they could. But those of us who choose, at times, not to be anonymous and not to deal with people who are anonymous should have that right as well. That’s the way it works in the real world.
The benefits would be many: Easy and secure ways to deal with your finances and medical records. Small payment systems that could reward valued content rather than the current incentive to concentrate on clickbait for advertising. Less hacking, spamming, cyberbullying, trolling, and the spewing of anonymous hate. And the possibility of a more civil discourse.
Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, is the author of The Innovators and biographies of Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. This essay is partly drawn from a talk delivered to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

There are graphs associated with this post unfortunately they did not transfer  but you can search out Matt O’Brien @Wonkblog for the details. MA
Wonkblog analysis

By Matt O’Brien
December 16 at 7:50 AM

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
There are going to be so many tax cuts for the rich, you’re going to get tired of tax cuts for the rich. You’re going to say, “Mr. President, please don’t cut taxes for the rich so much, this is getting terrible.”
And it will start when Republicans repeal Obamacare.
This is the Rosetta Stone for understanding why conservatives have acted like subsidized health care was the end of the republic itself. It wasn’t just that it had the word “Obama” in its name, which, in our polarized age, was enough to ensure that 45 percent of the country would despise it. No, it was that Obamacare was one of the biggest redistributive policies of the last 50 years. The Republican Party, after all, exists for what seems like the sole purpose of reversing redistribution.
A quick recap: Obamacare is a kind of three-legged stool. First, it tells insurance companies that they can’t discriminate against sick people anymore; second, it tells people that they have to buy insurance or pay a penalty, so that everyone doesn’t just wait until they’re sick to get covered; and third, it helps people who can’t afford the plans they have to buy be able to. Which is to say that you need to come up with a whole lot of money to make this work — money that Obamacare gets by taxing the rich. Indeed, at its most basic level, it raises taxes on the top 1 percent to pay for health insurance for the bottom 40 percent.
So undoing Obamacare would undo a lot of taxes at the top, and a lot of subsidies at the bottom. You can see that in the chart below from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. They crunched the numbers to figure out how much getting rid of Obamacare’s taxes and tax credits would help or hurt people at different rungs of the income ladder, and the results were about what you’d expect. The bottom 40 percent are a good deal worse off, the middle 55 percent are mostly unaffected, and the top 1 percent would do pretty, pretty well. In fact, they’d get an average tax cut of around $32,820.  It’s a reverse Robin Hood. It’s taking tax subsidies from the poor to give as tax cuts to the rich. The starkest way to think about that is that the bottom 60 percent would get negative 61.1 percent of the total benefits of getting rid of Obamacare, while the top 1 percent would get 117.5 percent. That’s right: the wealthiest would gain more than the country as a whole would, because the working class wouldn’t be gaining anything at all. They’d be losing tax credits, and the health insurance those bought them.
It’s even more lopsided than it sounds. The 44.8 percent of the total benefits that the 99 to 99.9 percent would get makes them seem like plebes compared to the 72.7 percent that the top 0.1 percent would.
What we can’t say, though, is how much the “repeal” part of “repeal and replace” would make up for the “repeal” part. That’s because Republicans still haven’t figured that out almost seven years later. The problem is that it’s hard to come up with a conservative alternative to Obamacare when Obamacare is the conservative alternative. It’s the market-based way to try to insure the uninsured. Think about it like this: if you want to make insurance companies cover people with preexisting conditions, then you need a mandate, and if you have a mandate, then you need subsidies to make it affordable. Obamacare, in other words, is the If-You-Give-A-Mouse-With-Preexisting-Conditions-An-Insurance-Plan system of health care reform.
Now, maybe Republicans really will put together their own plan . . . but maybe they won’t. It’s hard to see where they’d get the money for one when they’re so committed to getting rid of all the taxes that pay for Obamacare now.
Getting tired of tax cuts for the rich yet?

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