Progressive Breakfast for February 15

Morning Message

We Can Save Lives If We Confront Our Opioid Crisis

As a New York State Trooper handcuffed me at our State Capitol, I told him, “I lost my son. This is for him.” Jeff was an amazing kid, a chef, who was 28 when he died of a heroin overdose. I was willing to face arrest because our elected officials know what they can do to save lives like his – but they don’t. When Jeff was alive, no one told us how hard it is to beat an opioid addiction. No one offered us Suboxone or other proven treatments. No one told us about Naloxone, which can reverse an overdose. Doctors are able to prescribe unlimited amounts of opioid pills for pain, but few of them understand the addiction this creates, nor offer help for it. Our governor, Andrew Cuomo, could take real action to save lives: He could open safer consumption sites, increase harm reduction funding and access to the medicines that treat addiction. But small steps like the ones Cuomo advocates are not enough. Overdose deaths continue to rise, as elected officials sway public perception and say things are getting better. It’s not better. If we know what we can do to save lives, we must do it – even if it is controversial. The lives of our friends and family come first. We cannot back down, just because the message is uncomfortable: we must move forward with courage.

Trump To Declare National Emergency For Wall

Trump evokes executive powers, to dismay of Congress. CNN: “Republicans might be resorting a lot more often to prayer — the new strategy several senators have adopted for dealing with their capricious President — because of the forces unleashed by the latest fraught moment of the Trump era. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did manage to avert the political disaster of a new government shutdown by securing a pledge Thursday that President Donald Trump will sign a federal funding bill that lacks money for his wall. But he may be paying the price for years to come. That’s because the President’s response to a futile effort to squeeze lawmakers for wall funding is to obliterate a constitutional guardrail in a way that could fundamentally alter the power balance between the presidency and Congress. Trump will appear in the White House Rose Garden at 10 am ET to sign the compromise funding bill and announce a slate of executive actions, a White House official said. The plan is expected to include a declaration of national emergency, which he will use to reallocate $8 billion in government money to fund the wall. A declaration of a national emergency to bypass Congress and reprogram funds already allocated by lawmakers would represent Trump’s most striking assault yet on the system of constitutional order that he is sworn to preserve, protect and defend.”

Budget Deal May Increase Border Detentions

Immigration spending pact has more than a border wall. AP: ” and immigration enforcement cleared the Senate on Thursday, giving President Donald Trump just a sliver of the money he wanted for his border wall. The White House said Trump would sign the bill and then declare a national emergency to try to shift money to wall-building from elsewhere in the federal budget. The bill, which averts another government shutdown, includes many other provisions. The pact provides $30 million for a new Customs and Border Protection holding center in El Paso, Texas, and $33.5 million to upgrade the agency’s holding center in McAllen, Texas. It prohibits “chain-link fence-type enclosures” that have been used in McAllen. Critics call them “cages.” It also requires “appropriate temperature controls,” a response to widespread complaints that the facilities are almost unbearably cold. And it urges the use of better blankets. The recent deaths of two young children in Customs and Border Protection custody led Congress to deliver $192.7 million for medical professionals, supplies such as food, infant formula and diapers, and better transportation between holding facilities. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will receive money to house an average daily population of 40,520 people, mostly single adults but also families. That’s unchanged from the 2018 budget. The agency often houses more than it is budgeted for. There are currently 48,747 detainees. Crucially, the bill does not prevent the agency from moving money around in its budget to fund more detention beds, and it does not place a cap on detentions. Initially, Democrats wanted to slash the number of beds, a move that was eventually rejected. Immigrants in the U.S. illegally can be detained. Those who have violated the terms of their visas can be deported, usually after a criminal conviction. Immigrant detention is at the highest levels ever, as the Trump administration pushes hardline policies.”

EPA Releases Lax Rules On Water Carcinogens

EPA’s nationwide PFAS action plan fails communities. EarthJustice: “the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its delayed Nationwide Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan. The plan is too little, too late, and falls short of what is needed to protect communities from a class of chemicals that are polluting drinking water and air, while exposing families, particularly children, to a myriad of health risks, including cancer. EPA’s Action Plan does not include a commitment to set a drinking water standard even for PFOA and PFOS, two of the original PFAS that even manufacturers agree are dangerous. In turn, it favors corporate coffers over human health, and postpones concrete actions. The plan states that so-called short-term actions are expected to be completed within two years, even though people are being poisoned now. “This is an action plan with no action,” said Earthjustice attorney Suzanne Novak. “Interim Administrator Wheeler just released a long list of initiating steps that EPA should have been doing for the past few years, but no concrete actions. Meanwhile, PFAS are linked to chronic health issues, even death, and are highly unregulated despite a national emergency affecting entire towns. The EPA’s mission is to protect public health and the environment. This plan fails that mission.”

TVA Overrules Trump To Close Coal Power Plant

Trump’s intervention fails to save coal-fired power plant. ThinkProgress: “The Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) board of directors voted Thursday to close the last remaining unit at its Paradise coal-fired power plant in western Kentucky, ignoring calls from President Donald Trump to keep the unit open. The board also approved the closure of its Bull Run coal plant in eastern Tennessee. The proposed closures had drawn extra scrutiny because TVA, a regional utility owned by the federal government, buys coal to fuel the Paradise plant from Murray Energy Corp. The company is headed by Robert Murray, a Trump donor and a major political ally of the president. Closing the Paradise unit “isn’t about coal, this is about economics,” TVA CEO Bill Johnson said during the board meeting. The unit can be retired with “no impact” on reliability or resilience, he said.” The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy also welcomed Thursday’s vote. “We applaud TVA for making the right decision and for ignoring President Trump’s Tweet and misguided support for dirty, uneconomical coal,” Stephen Smith, executive director, said in a statement. “This closure is an economic and environmental win-win; it is a good move for bill payers and for the environment.” Smith hopes TVA continues moving in the same direction, away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. “There is an opportunity to continue the progress started today, and bolster communities that have relied on coal, by investing in a clean energy future and moving forward with additional coal retirements,” he said.”

Why We Need ‘Medicare For All’

To be crystal clear: ‘Medicare for All’ does not mean ‘Medicare for Some’. Common Dreams: “As the health care debate heats up, it’s time to be clear about what Medicare for All is and what it is not. Medicare for All does not mean giving people the option to “buy in” to Medicare under our current health insurance system—what might be called Medicare for Some. Members of Congress who support bringing everyone in America under one federally administered health insurance program are proposing Medicare for All. Members of Congress who support opening up Medicare to people as an additional insurance option are proposing a Medicare buy-in or Medicare for Some. Predictably, some members of Congress support both. While Medicare for Some appeals to our instinctive craving for more “choices,” it does not address the unsustainable cost increases keeping our commercial health care system from being as fair and effective as Medicare itself or the health care systems in place in other developed countries. Only Medicare for All will bring down national health spending and guarantee health care as a human right for every American. By eliminating trillions of dollars in excess health care costs, Medicare for All can include all Americans, broaden benefits and reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses for the vast majority of Americans.”

Can Dems Rebuild The Midwest Blue Wall?

How Does the “Blue Wall” Look for 2020? Cook Political Report: “There’s something of a consensus forming that the ‘easiest’ or least risky electoral path for the Democratic nominee in 2020 is to reconstruct the so-called “Blue Wall” in the industrial midwest. If the Democratic nominee wins every state Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, plus Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, that Democrat would win 278 electoral votes — eight more than the 270 needed to win. Just as important, it means that Democrats wouldn’t need to sweat Ohio or Florida. They can lose those big, electoral-vote-rich states, and still have enough to win the White House. This Blue Wall path also means Democrats wouldn’t have to win in Iowa either. Which, is good news if you are a Democrat looking at the latest polling from the Hawkeye State. Taken January 30-February 2 (a year out from the 2020 Caucuses), the Emerson College poll (a combined IVR/online survey) finds that despite the president’s middling job approval ratings — 46 percent approve to 48 percent disapprove — Trump beats almost every potential 2020 Democrat with between 50 and 55 percent of the vote. In 2016, Trump carried Iowa with 51 percent. Up against the better-known Democrats, Trump bests Elizabeth Warren 52 percent to 48 percent, nudges past Sanders 51-49 percent, but narrowly trails Joe Biden 49 percent to 51 percent. But, if Iowa looks tough for Democrats, Michigan is looking pretty good. Trump carried the Wolverine state in 2016 by less than 11,000 votes. But, a recent WDIV/Detroit News poll finds Trump’s job approval in the state a bleak 38 percent favorable to 53 percent unfavorable. The Detroit Free Press’ Todd Spangler also highlights a key point: “General Motors has laid off thousands of employees counter to what Trump promised when he won in 2016.. and [h]e’s also running into trouble in terms of getting congressional approval for a new North American trade agreement to replace NAFTA, another key campaign promise that helped energize a base of white, working-class voters in Michigan at a time when Democratic enthusiasm seemed at a low point.”