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How smart are we? These past 10 years in politics have given me pause about who we are as a country. This past 3 years  (if we are lucky) will show us to be smarter yet our elected officials (many of whom have been in the office much too long) keep showing us how naive we are. Since the written word began centuries ago we have been seemingly rushing backward in our thinking. We currently have a cadre of inept at the least or just criminal administrators and legislators. These folks have only their particular parties in mind at all times no matter the consequences for the voters who put them in office. It offers up the question of “how smart are we?”. Mass media has provided us with the truth as well as the lies of the world and politics but we have failed to distinguish between the two in too many cases. The lessons provided in previous administrations and in private industries have given us plain and overt messages about what our “leaders” are doing for and against our interests. As long as we are under and uninformed, the baser side of our elected officials will prevail. Rallies punctuated with “dog whistles and punch lines” do not inform they just excite and overshadow the truth. The media coverage can be decried as “fake news” as they report what comes directly from the mouths of the interviewed and covered but we have become inured to it all. We are suffering from the “folly of ignorance”

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What If You Are In A Coma - Dilbert by Scott Adams

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Apparently, Congress is using the Tax reform glitch as a bargaining tool while Gold Star families and mid to low income families are burdened with heavier taxes, Thanks TOTUS et al. MA

POLITICS
11/06/2019 03:28 pm ET Updated 6 days ago

An error in the GOP tax law has brought new attention to an old problem for military families.
By Arthur Delaney

Elizabeth Davis’ husband Matthew Davis, a Marine Corps first lieutenant, was killed by a drunk driver. The 2017 tax law wildly increased taxes on the death benefits she receives.
Republicans wrote their 2017 tax law so fast that the Senate voted at 2 a.m. on a version that still had edits hand-scribbled in the margins. They knew they would probably need to fix a few mistakes at some point later on.
Two years later, the economic boom the law was supposed to produce has failed to materialize ― but the mistakes have become very clear, and lawmakers are still trying to clean up after themselves.

Elizabeth Davis of Stafford, Virginia, is one person caught up in the mess. Davis normally owes a few hundred dollars around tax time. This year, she found herself with a nearly $10,000 bill thanks to wildly increased taxes on the death benefits she receives as a military widow.
“It was like a gut punch,” said Davis, 33, who is a full-time student working toward a communication degree.
Davis and her 11-year-old daughter have been receiving about $2,000 per month via two kinds of military survivor benefits since her husband Matthew Davis, a Marine Corps first lieutenant, was killed by a drunk driver at Camp Pendleton, California, five years ago this week.
Hers is just one of thousands of Gold Star families ― the name given to surviving relatives of deceased members of the armed services ― who got slapped with a giant tax bill because of a mistake in the law. Military families have long complained about how the government distributes death benefits, and the tax goof worsened a problem that was complicated enough to begin with.
All of us had big bills, varying from a couple grand into tens of thousands of dollars.
Elizabeth Davis
Davis said not even her tax preparer understood what had gone wrong.
“I was in complete and utter disbelief. I contacted friends who were lawyers, seeing if something had changed,” Davis said. She also reached out to certified public accountants, veterans groups like the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and through social media she contacted other Gold Star widows. A pattern emerged.
“All of us had big bills, varying from a couple grand into tens of thousands of dollars,” Davis said.
As she started figuring out how to pay what she owed, Davis also wanted to make sure she wouldn’t have to do it again next year. So she’s undertaken her own lobbying effort to fix the flaw.
Here’s What Lawmakers Did Wrong
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified many parts of the tax code, resulting in both lower taxes and easier filing for a lot of people. Far fewer taxpayers now make an itemized list of deductions, for instance, opting instead for a standard deduction that is much more generous than it used to be.
Another simplification junked a complicated rule regarding unearned income for children that was originally drafted in 1986 to discourage wealthy parents from gifting large sums of money to their offspring to dodge taxes. The so-called “kiddie tax” required parents to do their kids’ taxes first, and then add the taxable portion of their children’s income to their own return.
The new, simpler arrangement lets parents file wholly separate returns for themselves and their kids, but the tax rates on even low levels of unearned income for children can near 40%. Republicans had long wanted to make this change; a stalled GOP tax reform bill had the same provision in 2014.
“It had been vetted thoroughly for years,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told HuffPost last month. Brady chaired the House Ways and Means Committee and was a principal author of the new tax law in 2017.
But nobody seemed to realize the change would clobber households with children who are receiving benefits because a parent died on active duty or in retirement from the military. “It’s an unintended consequence because Congress enacted it quickly without hearings,” said Mark Mazur, the Robert C. Pozen director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
The Gold Star glitch is just one of several unintended consequences of the tax law.
Soon after the bill passed, the agriculture industry noticed that a new tax deduction for certain types of businesses gave farms an absurd incentive to sell their crops to cooperatives rather than private firms. Democrats worked with Republicans to fix the so-called “grain glitch” in March 2018, just a few months after Trump had signed the bill into law.
Democrats have seemed less enthusiastic about fixing other problems. They say they want to fix the “retail glitch” ― a drafting error that has disallowed firms such as restaurants from writing off upgrades to commercial properties. Democrats have used that fix as leverage, suggesting in letters to a large casino operator that if it wants their help to deduct the cost of a recent $600 million renovation, it should be nicer to its workers.
Fixing the Gold Star glitch has also become a bit of a bargaining chip. In May, the Senate passed a standalone bill that would solve Gold Star families’ tax problem. A similar House measure has 169 Republican and Democratic co-sponsors. But rather than address the glitch directly, Democratic leadership added a fix to the SECURE Act, a package aimed at boosting retirement security that passed the House in May by a vote of 417 to 3.
Now the SECURE Act has hit a roadblock in the Senate, where a handful of Republicans have put a hold on it ― an old legislative trick that allows individual senators to stall bills.
Fixing the Gold Star glitch has become a bit of a bargaining chip in Congress.
What’s Going Wrong Now
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of the most vocal senators holding up the SECURE Act, actually has no beef with what’s in the bill ― he’s just mad that House Democratic leaders removed a provision that he had championed that would allow parents to use tax-advantaged 529 savings accounts for K-12 educational expenses such as tutoring and homeschooling. (For the most part, such accounts are reserved for college expenses.)
“House leadership vindictively stripped it from the bill,” Cruz said, blaming teachers unions. “I’m pressing to get it added back to expand the educational choices and options for millions of kids across the country.”
Cruz and his fellow holdouts are agitating for a chance to add amendments to the SECURE Act, including one for 529s and one to fix the retail glitch. But it’s not clear how the strategy will work since it seems most of their colleagues in the Senate favor the bill as is and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is miserly with floor time for legislation.

Davis had a face-to-face meeting with Cruz’s office over the summer to lobby for the SECURE Act. She said Cruz’s staff expressed sympathy for her plight and said nobody had intended to hike taxes on grieving military families, but the senator wants a vote on his education thing before moving forward.
Which, to Davis, seems less important than fixing her tax problem.
“You’re holding up taxes on death benefits for orphans for the sake of an extra-curricular financial account,” she said.
(Cruz voted in favor of the Senate bill that solely addresses the taxes on death benefits, but the House has no plans to take up that legislation.)
An irony about blocking the retirement bill for education policy reasons is that military widows and widowers are not the only ones with a new kiddie tax problem. The glitch also affected recipients of scholarship grants and the children of fallen police officers and firefighters who receive benefits from state and local governments. The American Council on Education estimates the glitch has affected 1.4 million students, mostly from middle- and lower-income families.
“This is what happens when you do an enormous bill so quickly,” ACE’s government affairs director Steven Bloom said.
The SECURE Act would fix the glitch for students and first responders, but the standalone House and Senate bills would not.
Another Possible Solution
Even if the Senate never passes SECURE Act, military families could catch a break in another upcoming piece of legislation.
The House passed a defense spending bill this year that would make it unnecessary for Gold Star widows and widowers to designate children as beneficiaries of their late spouse’s death benefits ― something veterans service organizations have complained about for decades.
When a service member dies, the Department of Veterans Affairs pays most surviving spouses Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits averaging about $1,300 a month. The surviving spouse might also be eligible for compensation from the Survivor Benefit Plan, a Defense Department insurance policy that usually pays about $1,050 a month.
The problem is that benefits from the two agencies offset each other, meaning a dollar of the latter benefit is subtracted for every dollar of the former. The only way to avoid that scenario is for a surviving spouse to designate a child as the Survivor Benefit Plan beneficiary. The military community calls this benefit offset the “widow’s tax,” though it is not actually a tax ― it’s just a bad thing they gave a nasty name.
The underlying benefit offset affects more military families than those who got surprise tax bills. There are roughly 10,000 children receiving Survivor Benefit Plan annuities whom the tax law may have adversely affected. There are 65,000 surviving spouses paying the widow’s tax.
The House defense bill, which sets the Pentagon’s budget, would undo the benefit offset, allowing surviving spouses to receive both benefits directly without a child intermediary.
Service member advocacy groups like Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) have been intensely lobbying Congress to finally undo the offset. Passing the defense bill in the House is as close as lawmakers have ever come to killing the widow’s tax.
That legislation is now being merged with a Senate version of the defense bill that did not include a widow’s tax repeal. Senate Republicans are wary of the provision’s $5 billion cost, but Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, suggested they might let it go.
“I think we’re pretty much decided that there’s such a strong support for that that in spite of the costs they’re going to go ahead and accept that,” Inhofe said last month.
The whole episode is a tangle of two overlapping policy issues. Different groups of lawmakers handle tax and military policy and have been pursuing their respective solutions on separate but parallel tracks. Fixing the benefit offset would resolve the tax problem that cropped up this year for widows like Davis. But attacking the tax problem itself would not fix the underlying benefit offset issue (which, remember, is called the widow’s tax even though it’s not actually a tax).
In a perverse way, the Gold Star glitch in the 2017 tax bill may have been helpful to the military community, bringing additional attention to the underlying problem of the widow’s tax.
“While everyone said, ‘Yes, the widow’s tax is bad,’ when they got hit with another round of taxes, now the message is really starting to permeate through every office in the House, every office in the Senate,” the VFW’s deputy legislative director Pat Murray said.
“There’s all these promises from a grateful nation that we’re going to take care of all these things,” Davis said of the Gold Star glitch and military widow’s tax.
Time’s Running Out For 2019
But it looks like negotiations for the defense bill are not wrapping up fast enough, and Inhofe has started talking about doing a partial defense bill that might omit even mildly controversial provisions. There are bigger disagreements, such as replacing funds that had been taken from the defense budget to pay for wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border, but some senators involved in negotiating the final bill are still concerned about the cost of the widow’s tax repeal.
“Our biggest challenge right now is time,” said TAPS deputy policy director Ashlynne Haycock. Congress has fewer than 20 days left in session this year.
To be hit with a $10,000 bill on death benefits for the orphan of a fallen service member ― it is so absolutely horrendous.
Haycock has been lobbying on the widow’s tax since 2002, when she was 10. She accompanied her mother to Capitol Hill after her father died in an April 2002 accident at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. She wrote a September op-ed saying she had been thrilled when Inhofe, her home state senator, became chair of the Armed Services Committee, but was baffled that he omitted a widow’s tax fix from the Senate defense bill.
“I trust Senator Inhofe will keep his word to us,” Haycock wrote, exhorting the senator to honor a commitment to her mother, Nichole Haycock, a U.S. Air Force veteran who died in 2011.
For Davis, a full-time student who is now engaged to remarry and has a 1-year-old, there was not a lot of cash lying around to pay her surprise tax bill.
She had to withdraw money from an Individual Retirement Account, which was subject to a 10% early withdrawal fee ― so Davis will have to pay a tax to pay her tax. She thinks it’s all pretty stupid.
“There’s all these promises from a grateful nation that we’re going to take care of all these things,” she said. “And then to be hit with a $10,000 bill on death benefits for the orphan of a fallen service member ― it is so absolutely horrendous that that happened.”

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There apparently is no joy in Mudville as rationality has struck out! Under the uncomprehending eye of TOTUS, the administration is more floundering than administering. The members of the current administration have and are following blindly through fear and ignorance while fiercely defending the indefensible. We have a leader who has little to no knowledge of the real workings of government and the wider world. We have put our allies and troops in  danger with ill-advised and unadvised decisions. meanwhile the GOP has blindly followed TOTUS to his and their possible failure (and ultimately ours- the voters). This is not the reality show that: TOTUS has been involved in, this the future of the United States and it’s alliances in the greater world. The current events should be the clear indication that the GOP and TOTUS have no  concept (or care to have) of the harm being done to the voters in the name of party. This is not to exonerate the Scamocrats, there is enough blame to go around yet this is the state of modern politics which has no regard for the voters just for the major parties.

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COMEDY 11/11/2019 05:09 am ET
Monty Python Icon John Cleese Has Brutal Assessment Of Trump’s Fox News Fans
“I don’t know what you say to people like that.”

By Ed Mazza
Comedy legend John Cleese said there may be no point in trying to argue with Fox News viewers who support President Donald Trump.
″[T]he people who support him are basically so ignorant because they only ever get news from Fox News,” the Monty Python alum told The Daily Beast. “I don’t know what you say to people like that.”

He added:
“To me, it’s like people who go and watch professional wrestling and don’t realize that it’s fixed. If they can’t see it when it’s right under their nose, I have no idea how they’re going to realize how wrong they are.”
Cleese also called Trump “an extraordinary caricature of an asshole.”
“Every time he makes a decision, no matter how impulsive it is, it’s the one that makes him feel best about himself for the next 20 minutes,” he said.
Fellow Python alum Eric Idle delivered a similarly blunt assessment of the president.
“He’s stark raving mad. Absolutely mental,” Idle told The Daily Beast. “He’s a criminal and a con artist and a mob boss.”
Read the full interview about their time in the comedy troupe as well as what they’re up to now, here.
Both Cleese and Idle are active on Twitter and often have choice words for Trump. This weekend, Cleese mockingly claimed to have become a Republican, but with a twist:

John Cleese
✔ @JohnCleese

” A Warning “, written by a senior official in the Trump Administration, paints a picture of the President as cruel, inept, and a danger to his country

As a newly converted Banana Republican, I’d like to point out there’s nothing new here

1,610
11:54 AM – Nov 10, 2019
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235 people are talking about this

John Cleese
✔ @JohnCleese

Now That I’ve become a Banana Republican, I’m reading websites like ‘Patriot Brief’, ‘Conservative Brief’ and ‘Attention Span Brief’

They carry advertisements, many of them for Erectile Dysfunction

Could this be a result of anxiety that someone might take their guns away?

2,217
12:08 PM – Nov 10, 2019
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359 people are talking about this

John Cleese
✔ @JohnCleese

Good joke!

But the only time I see ER ads is when I am sent ‘stuff’ from Conservative websites

Of course, these Conservative ads are not all about ER by any means.

There are plenty of ads about losing belly-fat, get-rich-quick schemes and tinnitus https://twitter.com/DookgoesQuark/status/1193591600636669952

DookgoesQuark @DookgoesQuark
Replying to @JohnCleese
Don’t adverts usually follow your internet search history Mr Cleese?
192
1:30 PM – Nov 10, 2019
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43 people are talking about this

John Cleese
✔ @JohnCleese

As a Banana Republican, I am proud that although we are losing better educated voters in VA and PA, we are gaining among the less well-educated, white, rural voters

662
1:34 PM – Nov 10, 2019
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150 people are talking about this

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Illinois Has Had:

3 Presidents who were honest

several Governors who went to jail

1 city with a high crime rate (above the National average or near it)

1 city that is literally underwater

Huge pension problems due to poor management and deals with and by the legislators.

 

Now we have Congressman Rodney Davis: Apparently, Congressman Davis works for the President and the party, not the people in Illinois who elected him. I have always thought or hoped that the people elected by the people actually work for the people. Mr. Davis as he has done all along takes the side of the party and the White House resident. This recent statement regarding the impeachment hearings points out the reluctance of the elected officials to just do their jobs regardless of party. This issue is too important for politics and we ( the voters) need to hold all of them no matter the party to a higher standard of responsibility. We as a country are in the grip of an unqualified leader seeking only to raise his personage above the country. This all will be born out in these hearings. The sheer amount of resistance to Congressional subpoenas speaks volumes. If there was no wrongdoing then appearing before a panel, to tell the Truth, should not be a problem. I hope Mr. Davis (the peoples representative) will opt for the good of the people, not the party.

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TOTUS has always been pushing the “loyalty” issue. 45 has valued loyalty above honesty and truth. The political “establishment” has embraced this to further their own ends. This is similar to the oft-stated “Nero fiddles while Rome burns”. Nero (metaphorically) being the Congressional TOTUS backers. Since TOTUS’ election, the GOP largely has supported him to a fault while creating their own “shadow” government which caters to their base. TOTUS’ base is not as large as has been reported but again liars continue to lie until enough people believe it or they are found out (then its’ too late). To get to the question: ” who does your representative work for?. It is apparent that for the most part, the pecking order is: Party, President, voters. The most important element in this is the Voters, without them no one gets in office. Would you think that it is time to reassert the power of the people?

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If you didn’t notice TOTUS is sucking all of the air out of the room (so to speak) while the GOP is packing the lower courts with THEIR choice of Judges which will affect our country for years to come. The Ultra and lesser conservatives (religious and nonreligious) are working to make all of us beholden to their version of what America should be. Their version is not what the founders’ envisioned. TOTUS is so full of himself that he has no idea what is happening since he can only accommodate one coherent thought at a time and even then digest only the parts he can understand. The GOP learned early on that they can do what they want in spite of the effect on ALL Americans while TOTUS acts as a cover for them. Looking at recent events in the House, the GOP united to assail the proceedings to look supportive of  TOTUS’s rantings but are merely looking to maintain their tenuous grip on power. This is not to say that the Dems are any better but more userfriendly for the country. All of the executive orders and decisions made by the administration will possibly be rescinded or altered in the next administration should TOTUS be ousted through Impeachment or election. The next leader will have a first year of dissembling a tangled web of lies and wrongdoings with luck we will have a better Congress to assist in that effort. If you didn’t notice these are reasons to vote intelligently to get better government, just because a sound bite sounds good and reasonable does not mean it is correct.

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Thanks to the GOP spending money and capital on repealing and picking the ACA apart, we have citizens in some states with minimal to no healthcare coverage, their go-to care is emergency rooms where they HAVE to be treated regardless of their ability to pay. This creates a financial burden on all of us in higher costs and sometimes lower quality of care. Unfortunately, many Americans never understood the ACA since it was labeled “Obamacare” and the GOP’s followers never bought into it. A political mistake that will haunt us all until someone with half a brain decides to really look into how “so-called free health care works- It is not free- (this just a snapshot) how it works is the residents of the country pay in their national tax the cost of healthcare, schooling and other public needs without any additional taxes. It must be noted that everyone in those countries, including politicians, pay the same money in their taxes and receive the same general healthcare.  I am not sure if there is a sliding scale of what people pay but that may be part of it.MA

Phil McCausland 2 hrs ago NBC news
HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. — Darlene Velasco can’t afford to treat her Type 2 diabetes. She doesn’t make enough money at her job selling college sports memorabilia to pay for medication or private health insurance and, at $13.50 an hour, earns too much to qualify for Medicaid.

That’s been the case for years and without treatment, Velasco, 45, was declared legally blind in May. The disease built up cataracts in her eyes and when her vision began to blur and disappear, she found herself driving to her job that carries no health benefits steered only by the memory of the backcountry roads that surround her home.
“I reached out to everybody I could, asking about programs for people who can’t afford medical insurance — hardworking people,” she said late one October night, deep in this Mississippi hill country. “Not everyone has that financial stability with benefits. Some of us get our paycheck biweekly, struggle to make ends meet, pay rent and raise kids. It’s not easy.”

Mississippi is one of 14 states that chose not to expand Medicaid, forgoing about $1 billion from the federal government each year since 2012 when the Affordable Care Act offered states the opportunity to expand care.
The states that choose to go along with the program, first rolled out under the ACA, will eventually have to provide a 10 percent match of the funds by 2020. That would cost Mississippi about $100 million a year, and Republican lawmakers insisted it would be detrimental to the state economy.
In Mississippi, a state that has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country — currently ranked at 45 out of 50 — about 100,000 people fall in the same coverage gap as Velasco, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In total, 2.5 million poor adults fall into that same gap in the 14 states that did not expand Medicaid.
Meanwhile, health care costs continue to grow, creating a core campaign issue in Mississippi’s contentious gubernatorial election that will be decided Tuesday. State Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, supports expansion to address costs, while Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves opposes it.
A review by NBC News of the Medicaid budgets for all 14 states that refused expansion showed their expenses increased dramatically after 2012 — despite state lawmakers’ objections that accepting expansion would cost too much. Mississippi’s budget grew by about $173 million — a 20 percent increase — since 2012, while enrollment only grew by 10,000 over the same period.
Jesse Cross-Call, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, studied Medicaid expansion and state budgets and testified before the Mississippi Legislature near the end of October on the topic.
He said there was a growth in Medicaid spending in nonexpansion states initially because enrollment briefly grew after the passage of the ACA, but Mississippi and the other states’ budgets remain inflated because of rising health care costs.
“State Medicaid spending is increasing and the primary driver is prescription drugs, an aging population, disabilities and other health care costs, but it’s not Medicaid expansion,” Cross-Call said. “There are greater health care forces acting on states right now, but many states have made it so Medicaid expansion has been a net saver.”
Louisiana, which passed expansion in 2016, reported savings of $199 million in 2017 and $350 million in 2018. Virginia, where expansion went into effect in January, predicted $152 million in savings in 2019 and $270 million in 2020. Numerous other states have also experienced savings through the program, as well.
A 2017 Health Affairs study found “expansion states did not experience any significant increase in state-funded expenditures, and there is no evidence that expansion crowded out funding for other state priorities.”
Mississippi has yet to see any savings, and though Velasco didn’t get health insurance through the state to treat her diabetes and avoid becoming legally blind, Mississippi taxpayers still paid through the state’s department of rehabilitation services to treat her vision at a cost of more than $20,000.
It also meant Velasco had to undergo cataract surgery in October, a procedure that terrified her and could have been prevented if she had been able receive coverage through Medicaid or somehow pay about $500 a month for her medication or the several hundred dollars needed monthly to afford private insurance.
“They knocked me out because I was that scared,” she said. “I had tears coming out of my eyes. I was crying.”
‘I can’t just go to the doctor’
The lack of health insurance has left millions of Americans in those states that chose to go without Medicaid expansion to carry the burden of medical debt when they need to receive health care.
Velasco said she socks away a few dollars out of each biweekly paycheck to save up to go to the doctor. She’s losing hearing in one ear and doctors told her she had a cyst on an ovary when she visited the emergency room for stomach pain two years ago.
Eventually, Velasco hopes to be able to afford to have them examine it.
“It hasn’t caused cramps or anything. I’m hoping it melted away,” she said. “But I can’t just go to the doctor. I have to pay out of pocket. Every time I go when I’m sick, I have to pay $160 when I get seen.”
In the state that has the highest percentage of its residents with past-due medical debt in the country, it appears that many people choose to go without, according to a study done by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation.
More than half in Mississippi said the cost of health care led them to not fill a prescription, avoid the doctor or skip a medical test, according to the study.
“In a sense, the people of Mississippi are saying the cost of health care is driving them away from medical services, and we see that nationally in the data as well,” Gary Mottola, the research director for the FINRA Foundation, said.
When the foundation began the study in 2012, 41 percent of Mississippians said they held past-due medical debt. That number dipped to 31 percent in 2015 with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, but has since grown again to lead the nation at 41 percent in 2018 after funding and advertising for the ACA was cut.
For many, the dollar numbers attached to accidents or unexpected illnesses are so large that they become abstract and unapproachable.
Samantha Mechell, 59, broke her hip three months ago when she tripped over her cat. A visit to the hospital and the ensuing surgery needed so that the longtime waitress could walk again cost her $140,000. Without insurance, she said her bill was sent to collections before she completed physical therapy.
“I wanted to go back to work early but my doctor said I couldn’t without my walker,” she said, still limping heavily minutes after her midweek lunch shift ended. “I have bills. Nobody pays those but me. There’s only me.”
She earns $900 monthly, which goes to rent and utilities, while the $20 or $30 she makes in tips each day help pay for food and gas.
When she couldn’t work, she said she used loose change she collected and some of the tax returns that she saved for a rainy day to pay for meals of ramen noodles or hot dogs.
“They want all this money, but I don’t have much,” she said. “It’s just rough. I know there’s a lot of people out there like me.”
Are lives at risk?
Advocates for expansion and health care experts argue that the lack of access to health insurance coverage could be putting people’s lives at risk, especially in rural areas, in part because hospitals are having to provide uncompensated care that is endangering their economic viability and causing some to close their doors.
That’s a problem in Mississippi, where almost half of the state’s rural hospitals are at “high financial risk,” according to the independent consulting firm Navigant.
A 2018 study from the University of Colorado found these issues are exacerbated in the 14 states that refused Medicaid expansion, finding that states that did not expand Medicaid saw a sharp increase of hospital closings, while states that expanded Medicaid saw closure rates decrease.
There is now a clear number tied to those life and death stakes, according to a report published this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It found the states’ decision over Medicaid expansion has had a cumulative impact on mortality among older adults, leading to 19,200 fewer deaths in Medicaid expansion states between 2014 and 2017, while states that decided against expansion “likely resulted in 15,600 additional deaths” that could have been avoided.
“It’s one thing not to have health insurance, but not to have access to any health care is a whole different thing and that’s where we are,” said State Rep. Robert Johnson, a Democrat who represents the impoverished Mississippi Delta town of Natchez. The hospital in that town is at risk of closing and considered “critically essential” to the community by Navigant.
“What do we do if the emergency room isn’t there anymore?” he added.
Roy Mitchell, the executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, and his organization work to help families obtain and maintain health care coverage in the state. He said that the push to expand Medicaid consistently hits roadblocks because of the political perception that it would be too expensive for the state.
“I’ve been working in public health advocacy in Mississippi for 25 years. The equity arguments in Mississippi fall on deaf ears,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately, we always look at the financial side here. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a greater reaction by the faith-based community because the equity arguments for Medicaid expansion are so overwhelming — and it saves lives.”
The politics of expansion
Drawn by potential savings and the benefits of health care coverage, voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah — typically conservative states — supported the expansion of Medicaid at the ballot box during the 2018 election. Similar battles are occurring in North Carolina and Georgia.
Now, even Republicans in deeply red Mississippi are beginning to find expansion attractive.
Bill Waller, Jr., the former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court who ran against Reeves in the Republican primary for governor, advocated for a form of expansion similar to a plan supported by the Mississippi Hospital Association, which would have beneficiaries pay a $20 monthly fee and a $100 copay for hospital visits.
Waller lost to Reeves by 8 points after the lieutenant governor cast him as sympathetic to national liberals and compared him to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Months after the brutal primary, Waller still called the expansion issue existential for the state and pointed to the success seen in Arkansas, which expanded Medicaid in 2013 and provided coverage to about 250,000 people.
“It’s critical for the advancement of the state, both economically and socially,” Waller said, sitting in his wood-paneled office in downtown Jackson, just a few blocks from the governor’s mansion.
Waller declined to endorse Reeves and would not say if he is voting Tuesday for the Republican nominee or Jim Hood, Mississippi’s attorney general and the lone Democrat to hold statewide office, whom he called a “credible political figure” who could push through expansion.
Reeves, meanwhile, maintains opposition to the expansion, though he has provided few policy solutions to address the state’s growing health insurance crisis.
Reeves’ campaign did not respond to multiple interview requests made by NBC News. Campaign spokesman Parker Briden also declined to provide NBC News an interview with Reeves after the lieutenant governor briefly spoke at a press event in Jackson, Mississippi, where he discussed his opposition to Medicaid expansion in late October.
He mainly insisted at the event that his opponent would raise taxes, which Hood denies, but still did not provide an alternative.
“We believe you know how to spend your money better than any government entity ever will,” Reeves said at the time.
Cost is always an issue in Mississippi and it was exacerbated when Reeves and the state Legislature passed the largest tax cut in Mississippi history in July 2017. Now, a state with already low revenue is seeing its assets shrink even further.
The state is projected to lose $46.5 million this year and $415 million per year once the tax cut hits its full level in 2028, according to Mississippi’s Department of Revenue and Legislative Budget Office.
In an interview, Hood lamented that Reeves and state Republicans passed the tax cut, calling it “a corporate tax give away.” He pointed to that as a reason Mississippi is struggling to pay for Medicaid, as well as fund increases to a beleaguered education system and much-needed fixes to thousands of damaged roads and bridges.
Hood said that makes it more difficult to ignore that the state’s proposed general fund budget for financial year 2019 was $5.6 billion — less than the $6 billion the state would have already banked from the federal government had it chosen to pursue expansion in 2012.
But when asked how he planned to pay for his policy proposals considering that tax cut was still in place and he would likely work with the same Republican Legislature that passed the cut, Hood did not have a clear answer and said he would likely renegotiate private government contracts.
As for Medicaid expansion, Hood said he felt confident he could get it passed if he followed the same route advocated by the Mississippi Hospital Association and Waller, though he noted he wasn’t “sure of every detail” and didn’t “know the answer to how exactly that happens.”
But he insisted that Mississippi taxpayers wouldn’t foot the bill.
“That one doesn’t cost anything,” he said. “It generates $100 million a year, creates 10,000 jobs. It’s an economic driver.”
In the meantime, however, people like Velasco continue to hope that the politicians arguing almost 200 miles south of her home will find some solution.
For her, time is of the essence.
“I’ve gone years without medication, and it’s gotten to a point where you hit rock bottom,” Velasco said, folding her hands in her lap. “And it’s just like, ‘Okay, if I go, I go.’ That’s just how I have to see it.”

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Long read with implications in Modern-day politics. MA
History Magazine
The brutal beheading of Cicero, last defender of the Roman Republic
In 43 B.C., Mark Antony murdered Cicero, famous for his unparalleled powers of speech, and ushered in the beginnings of the Roman Empire. Lawyer, Statesman, Philosopher
Cicero is remembered for his strong defense of the values of the Roman Republic and rejection of the tyranny he believed Julius Caesar, and then Mark Antony, embodied. Bust from the Uffizi Gallery, Florence

By José Miguel Baños
PUBLISHED February 25, 2019 The second-century A.D. historian Appian vividly captured the moment the Roman Republic truly died: When the great orator Marcus Tullius Cicero was struck down by the forces of his enemies:
As he leaned out of the litter and offered his neck unmoved, his head was cut off. Nor did this satisfy the senseless cruelty of the soldiers. They cut off his hands, also, for the offense of having written something against Antony. Thus, the head was brought to Antony and placed by his order between the two hands on the rostra, where, often as consul, often as a consular, and, that very year against Antony, he had been heard with admiration of his eloquence, the like of which no other human voice ever uttered.”

Cicero’s death between Rome and what is today Naples, on December 7, 43 B.C., brought closer the era of empire.
Son of the Republic
Cicero was born in 106 B.C. into a wealthy family whose surname originated from the nickname cicer, the Latin word for “chickpea.” Writing of Cicero about a century after his death, Greek historian Plutarch believed the name came from an ancestor who had a dent in his nose resembling the cleft of a chickpea. Cicero’s family was wealthy but did not belong to the patrician class, the aristocracy of Rome. His family belonged to the equestrian class, which sat below the patricians and above the plebeians, the working class of the republic. His family had strong military connections, but not the political ones necessary for the career in government desired by Cicero.

Educated in Rome and in Greece, Cicero aimed to scale the political ladder as quickly as possible. He would do so as a novus homo, new man, a term which signified that his family did not come from the ruling class. Cicero served briefly in the military before turning to a career in law. He tried his first case in 81 B.C., and then successfully defended a man accused of parricide—a bright beginning to Cicero’s public life. (See also: Wine, women, and wisdom: The symposium of Ancient Greece.)

Marriage at age 27 into a wealthy family brought him the necessary funds to continue to rise. After he wed in 79 B.C., Cicero’s career took off, and he rapidly rose through the ranks. He was elected quaestor in 75, praetor in 66, and consul in 63, the highest political office in the republic. Cicero was one of the youngest ever to reach that high office.
Cicero’s Finest Hour
It was in the Forum that Cicero addressed the people of Rome in 63 B.C., congratulating them for the defeat of Catiline’s plans to topple the republic and establish a dictatorship.

Consul and conspiracy
Wielders of imperium, Roman authority, consuls held executive power in the republic. There were two consuls who each served a one-year term. They held equal power as political and military heads of state. Consuls controlled the army, presided over the Senate, and proposed legislation. On paper, the Senate’s job was to advise and consent, but because the body was made of roughly 600 elite and powerful patrician men, it gained much power and influence. Legislative authority rested with assemblies, most notably the Comitia Centuriata. Plebeians could belong to this body, whose powers included electing officials, enacting laws, and declarations of war and peace. (Learn about Vestal Virgins, the most powerful priestesses in Rome.)
In the same year Cicero clinched the consulship, he exposed and defeated a rebellion led by a political opponent, Catiline. The plot called for assassinations and burning the city itself. Widely considered the best orator of his time, Cicero had attempted to warn Rome about Catiline’s treasonous intentions through dramatic speeches in the Senate, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. After the plot had been exposed, Catiline escaped. Five of his conspirators were caught, however, and Cicero advocated for their immediate execution, without trial.

Most senators agreed with Cicero, with one major exception—Julius Caesar. He advocated for imprisoning the men, but his recommendation was overturned. The conspirators were executed, and Catiline died later, fighting alongside his men while making one last stand. The defeat of the Catiline conspiracy was a high mark for Cicero, whom his supporters proudly called pater patriae, father of the fatherland. (See also: How Julius Caesar started a big war by crossing a small stream.)

Julius Caesar and his patron, Marcus Licinius Crassus, were both formidably rich, and had each used their wealth to gain popular support over the course of their political careers. In the chaos that followed the conspiracy, Julius Caesar and Crassus joined another general, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey, to take control of the government in 60 B.C. Announced when Caesar began his first consulship, the First Triumvirate would rule the republic for six years until the death of Crassus in 53.

Return to Rome

At first Cicero refused to support the triumvirate and fled from Rome. In 57, with Pompey’s backing, he returned to the city and tried to persuade Pompey to break his alliance with Caesar. Pompey refused. Cicero begrudgingly gave the triumvirate his approval despite recognizing that the triumvirate was unstable; each of the three men wanted to increase his own power while keeping his two other “allies” in check. No one in the First Triumvirate would be the champion for the republic for whom Cicero hoped.
Disgusted by this turn of events, Cicero left politics for a few years. During this time, he penned some of his most influential works before returning to office in 51 B.C. He accepted the governorship of Cilicia, a province located in present-day Turkey, and then returned to Rome in late 50. Crassus’ death in 53 had increased hostility between Julius Caesar and Pompey, who were headed toward an unavoidable confrontation that would explode into civil war in 49 B.C.
The Republic falls
Striving for control of Rome, neither Caesar nor Pompey wanted Cicero for an enemy, and both men appealed to him for his allegiance. Cicero chose to side with Pompey. Rome’s civil war lasted five years, and Caesar emerged victorious. In 46 B.C. Caesar was declared Dictator perpetuo, dictator for life.

Despite siding with Pompey, Cicero was pardoned by Caesar, who allowed him to return to Rome. Cicero began another period of intensive writing, creating many works defending republican values. During this time, a group of conspirators decided to take a more proactive stance against Caesar’s ambition. Although the plotters were close associates of Cicero—including Marcus Brutus whom Cicero had mentored—they kept their plans secret from the great orator.
Cicero was not involved in Caesar’s assassination during the Ides of March in 44 B.C. In his writings he expressed horror at the violence but supported the actions of the assassins:
Our tyrant deserved his death for having made an exception of the one thing that was the blackest crime of all . . . here you have a man who was ambitious to be king of the Roman People and master of the whole world; and he achieved it! The man who maintains that such an ambition is morally right is a madman, for he justifies the destruction of law and liberty and thinks their hideous and detestable suppression glorious.
Although he could probably not have brought himself to commit the violent act himself, he wrote: “All honest men killed Caesar . . . some lacked design, some courage, some opportunity: none lacked the will.” He was hopeful that by removing the ambitious Caesar, Rome could set itself back on the path to a republic. A few days after the murder, he advocated amnesty for the assassins in the Senate.
Rise of Antony
The wake of Caesar’s death left Cicero and Antony standing as the two main powers in Rome. Cicero had the backing of the Senate, but Antony had the power of Caesar’s legacy. To take advantage of his position, Antony orchestrated a spectacular funeral for the fallen leader. His stirring eulogy roused the passions of the crowd and turned public opinion against the assassins. Fearing for his life, Brutus fled from Rome. Cicero also left the city and bewailed ever more bitterly the inactivity of “our heroes” the conspirators, who, in his view, had not acted swiftly enough.

Dire Warnings
Cicero bemoaned Mark Antony’s actions after the death of Julius Caesar. He wrote to his friend Atticus: “Do you remember how you cried out that the cause was lost if he [Caesar] had a state funeral. But he was even cremated in the forum and given a pathetic eulogy, and slaves and paupers were sent against our houses with torches.” Brutus received a reproachful letter from the orator: “I can in no sense admit the justice of the distinction you draw . . . I strongly differ from you Brutus . . . You will be crushed, believe me Brutus, unless you take proper precautions.”
Cicero remained convinced that he had a part to play in the survival of the republic. He knew that his close political associations with Brutus and other conspirators would hurt his cause, so he needed a strong political ally to counter that factor. He thought he had found just the person—a youth of 18, who was in the early days of what would turn out to be an impressive career.
That young man was Octavian, a great-nephew of Julius Caesar. Caesar had named Octavian as his heir in his will. Octavian received news of Caesar’s death while in Apollonia (in modern-day Albania), and at once set out for Rome. He arrived in April and attempted to gain the trust of the veterans of Caesar’s legions and of influential figures like Cicero. He convinced Cicero to return to Rome, and the elder statesman was extremely flattered to have Octavian “totally devoted to me.” He became convinced that an alliance with Octavian might help to destroy Antony’s political aspirations. Cicero was encouraged to observe later in Rome, Octavian presented himself, unaccompanied by Antony, to the veterans of two legions and reiterated their rights. Cicero wrote, with misplaced optimism, to his friend Atticus: “This lad has landed a heavy blow to Mark Antony.” (See also: Inside the decadent love affair of Cleopatra and Mark Antony.)
Beginning in September and continuing into the spring of 43, Cicero delivered scathing speeches against Antony in the Senate that fanned outrage against him. These 14 orations were called the Philippics because they were modeled after warnings that the Athenian Demosthenes delivered about Philip of Macedon in the fourth century B.C. Perhaps harkening back to his famed orations against Catiline, Cicero argued for the restoration of the republic, advocated for Octavian, and framed Antony as a tyrant. Eventually the new consuls declared war on Antony, who was away besieging the city of Mutina (modern-day Modena) where one of Caesar’s assassins was holding out.
Attacking Antony

Cicero unleashed all his rhetorical forces against Mark Antony in 14 written speeches called Philippics. In the second, Cicero proclaims that despite knowing the risks, he is determined to fight for liberty. “Consider, I beg you, Marcus Antonius, do some time or other consider the republic: think of the family of which you are born, not of the men with whom you are living. Be reconciled to the republic. However, do you decide on your conduct. As to mine, I myself will declare what that shall be. I defended the republic as a young man, I will not abandon it now that I am old. I scorned the sword of Catiline, I will not quail before yours. No, I will rather cheerfully expose my own person, if the liberty of the city can be restored by my death.”

Octavian and Rome’s two sitting consuls, Gaius Vibius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius, led the Senate’s forces against Antony in April 43. After Pansa’s death in battle, they were able to secure a decisive victory against Antony. When news of the victories reached Rome there was jubilation in the Senate. Cicero, the man of the hour, was borne in triumph from his home on Capitoline Hill to the Forum. There he mounted the rostrum and delivered an exultant address to the people of Rome.
Cicero’s joy was short-lived. Antony managed to salvage a sector of his legions. Octavian, instead of pursuing Antony, decided to claim the vacant consulship for himself. When the Senate refused, Octavian lost no time in crossing the Rubicon—as Julius Caesar had before him—and marched on Rome with his legions. The senators were powerless to resist, and had to give in to his demands. Cicero saw how his trust had been misplaced, as his alleged protégé used the power of his troops to trample the rule of law. Historians believe the relationship between the two started to sour after Octavian found out that Cicero wrote that “the boy [Octavian] must be praised, honored, and removed.”

Death of an orator
Devastated that the republican cause was now lost, Cicero withdrew from Rome to spend time in his rural retreats in southern Italy. From there he looked on powerlessly as Octavian, reconciled with Antony, eventually formed the Second Triumvirate with him and Lepidus. Not only did Cicero feel this was a step backward politically, it also posed a serious personal threat to his life. The triumvirs put together a long list of senators and other citizens who should be “proscribed,” or condemned to die. The vengeful Antony managed to include Cicero’s name, despite Octavian’s initial reluctance.
Cicero was at his villa in Tusculum with his brother Quintus when he found out that they were both on the “hit list.” Fearing for their lives, they left for the villa in Astura, from there intending to sail to Macedonia and be reunited with Marcus Brutus. But at one point, Quintus retraced his steps in order to pick up provisions for the journey. Betrayed by his slaves, Quintus was killed a few days later along with his son. Cicero, by now in Astura, was wracked with fear and doubt as to what he should do. He set off by boat but after just a few miles he amazed everyone by disembarking and walking toward Rome in order to return to his Astura villa and from there be taken by sea to his villa at Formiae. There, he planned to rest and gather his strength before the final push onward to Greece.
Too hesitant. Too late. Realizing that Antony’s soldiers were about to catch up with him, Cicero headed through the forest toward the port of Gaeta from where he hoped to escape. The soldiers, led by Herennius, a centurion, and Popilius, a tribune, who had once been prosecuted for parricide and defended by Cicero, found his villa already abandoned but a slave called Philologus showed them which way Cicero had gone. They had no trouble catching up with him and performing their murderous deed.
Antony ordered that the severed head and right hand be displayed as trophies on the rostrum in the Forum so that all Rome could contemplate them. The rostrum was the very platform from which Cicero had been acclaimed by the crowds for his oratory. The force of arms had prevailed over the power of words.
A Long Legacy
Cicero inspired generations of philosophers, especially those of the Enlightenment such as John Locke, David Hume, and Montesquieu, who stated that “Cicero is, of all the ancients, the one who had the most personal merit, and whom I would most prefer to resemble.” He was a guiding light for the U.S. Founding Fathers. In 1744 Benjamin Franklin published M. T. Cicero’s Cato Major, or His Discourse of Old-Age, the first classic work translated and printed in the colonies. Thomas Jefferson drew on Cicero’s ideas when drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776. John Adams idolized Cicero, citing him in his 1787 A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America: “As all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero, his authority should have greater weight.”

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