Take this quiz to see if you get a tax break from the Trump Tax Scam

True or False: If you depend on the ACA for health insurance, your subsidized costs won't change much because if everyone has insurance, the markets are stable.

Correct

Time to buy stock in GoFundMe!

The Trump Tax Scam would repeal the ACA's individual mandate, which would lead to an estimated 1 million Texas leaving the insurance marketplace--driving up premiums for everyone.

Read more at TrumpTaxScam.org >>

Incorrect

What are you, some kind of communist?

The Trump Tax Scam would repeal the ACA's individual mandate, which would lead to an estimated 1 million Texas leaving the insurance marketplace--driving up premiums for everyone.

Read more at TrumpTaxScam.org >>

 

You spend more than 10% of your income on medical expenses. Is that tax-deductible?

Correct

That's right! The Trump Tax Scam repeals the medical-expense deduction.

Each year, nearly 9 million Americans claim a deduction on their taxes for their medical expenses. This deduction is only available to people who spend 10% or more of their income  on medical expenses, so it benefits people who have very high medical expenses, such as those with chronic illnesses and the elderly. In 2015, they claimed approximately $87 billion in deductions, meaning that each filer saved nearly $10,000 on their taxes—a huge boost for people who are already spending tens of thousands of dollars on medical care and long-term care. The Trump Tax Scam repeals this deduction, meaning these 9 million people—75% of whom are 50 or older, and 70% of whom have annual incomes of $75,000 or below—would see drastic increases in their taxes as a result.

The bill also repeals the credit for clinical expenses of testing orphan drugs.  Some 30 million Americans suffer from a disease covered by this program, and many are waiting for a cure or more effective therapy. Without tax incentives to test treatments for these diseases, patients could literally die.

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>

Incorrect

Sorry, peasant! The Trump Tax Scam repeals the medical-expense deduction. Better start a GoFundMe.

Each year, nearly 9 million Americans claim a deduction on their taxes for their medical expenses. This deduction is only available to people who spend 10% or more of their income  on medical expenses, so it benefits people who have very high medical expenses, such as those with chronic illnesses and the elderly. In 2015, they claimed approximately $87 billion in deductions, meaning that each filer saved nearly $10,000 on their taxes—a huge boost for people who are already spending tens of thousands of dollars on medical care and long-term care. The Trump Tax Scam repeals this deduction, meaning these 9 million people—75% of whom are 50 or older, and 70% of whom have annual incomes of $75,000 or below—would see drastic increases in their taxes as a result.

The bill also repeals the credit for clinical expenses of testing orphan drugs.  Some 30 million Americans suffer from a disease covered by this program, and many are waiting for a cure or more effective therapy. Without tax incentives to test treatments for these diseases, patients could literally die.

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>

 

You lost everything in Hurricane Harvey. Does Trump have your back?

Correct

That's right!

The Trump Tax Scam repeals the casualty loss deduction to help cover reconstruction costs. After the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, how can our Texas senators support this?

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>

Incorrect

Sorry, peasant!

The Trump Tax Scam repeals the casualty loss deduction to help cover reconstruction costs. After the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, how can our Texas senators support this?

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>

 

You're a teacher who pays out-of-pocket for classroom supplies. Is this expense tax-deductible?

Correct

Correct! The Trump Tax Scam repeals a significant list of credits and deductions that currently help students and teachers, including the $250 deduction for teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses, like supplies for their classroom.

However, if you are a corporation, your business expenses continue to be deductible. So get busy incorporating yourself, peasant!

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>

Incorrect

Sorry, peasant! The Trump Tax Scam repeals a significant list of credits and deductions that currently help students and teachers, including the $250 deduction for teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses, like supplies for their classroom. 

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>

 

You're a veteran seeking a job. The proposed tax plan provides incentives to employers who hire vets.

Correct

That's right!

The Trump Tax Scam would eliminate the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which is designed to encourage employers to hire more people from certain target groups—including unemployed and/or disabled veterans.

According to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, “nearly 300,000 veterans benefitted from The Work Opportunity Tax Credit between 2013 and 2015” alone. Republicans voted to send this bill to the floor on the eve of Veterans Day.

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>

Incorrect

Sorry, peasant!

The Trump Tax Scam would eliminate the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which is designed to encourage employers to hire more people from certain target groups—including unemployed and/or disabled veterans.

According to the Paralyzed Veterans of America, “nearly 300,000 veterans benefitted from The Work Opportunity Tax Credit between 2013 and 2015” alone. Republicans voted to send this bill to the floor on the eve of Veterans Day.

Support our troops, indeed.

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>

 

You're a graduate student whose university waives your tuition. Should that waiver be counted as taxable income?

Correct

Correct! By taxing tuition waivers, the Trump Tax Scam would dramatically affect people's ability to pursue a graduate degree. So long, smarty-pantses!

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>

Incorrect

What? You thought graduate students would continue getting away with living on five years' of ramen and caffeine to get a worthless advanced degree?

By taxing tuition waivers, the Trump Tax Scam would dramatically affect people's ability to pursue a graduate degree. So long, smarty-pantses!

Visit TrumpTaxScam.org to learn more >>


Call Senators Cornyn and Cruz NOW

Caller: Hello! My name is [NAME] and I’m calling from [part of state]. I’m calling to let Senator [Cruz / Cornyn] know that I strongly oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This tax bill is a scam that will give massive cuts to the wealthy, paid for by leaving tens of thousands of people in Texas uninsured, raising premiums, and raising taxes on middle-class families.

Staffer: The Senator is in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. He thinks it is important that we reform our broken, complex tax code so that middle-class families can benefit.

Caller: This tax bill won’t help middle class families get ahead. Every single provision intended to help the middle-class expires, but the corporate tax cuts are forever. Even worse, the CBO estimates that health insurance premiums will increase 10% more per year than they would without this bill and we know 13 million more people will be uninsured!

Staffer: I’ll pass your thoughts along to the Senator.

Caller: Yes please do, and please take down my contact information so you can let me know what the Senator decides to do.

Tax plan shell game hurts middle-class Texans

Who is the Tax Cut and Jobs Act for? What is it really meant to do? Create jobs? No. Regardless of how you normally vote, you know this bill doesn’t pass the smell test. It has one priority: cutting taxes for the wealthiest, by shifting the burden to everyone else.

Take our quiz to determine if you’ll get a tax break from the Trump Tax Scam >>

The House version of this scam gives the top .3 percent of Texans 52 percent of cuts. That’s 83,000 out of the nearly 28,000,000 Texans. Imagine the residents of Mission, Texas getting more tax cuts than the rest of the state combined. It would be farcical, if it wasn’t so serious.

The most narrow yet extreme of these cuts may be the elimination of the estate tax, which applies to only the largest .2 percent of estates. A married couple can pass on $10.9 million to their children before any estate tax is due. Do you know anyone who has $11 million to pass on? Rep. Michael McCaul, the wealthiest Texan in Congress, would save $38.7 million. However, this change is really about Sen. Ted Cruz’s desire to save non-Texan Robert Mercer hundreds of millions more. Never mind the expense to the country that provided the environment and secure conditions necessary for them to amass their stunning wealth.

Congress’ tax plans are shell game, offering slightly reduced rates and an increased standard deduction with one hand, while yanking away essential credits and deductions with the other. Important supposed benefits for the middle class include increased child tax credits as well as new credits for essentially every other member of the household. When taken together, these might be enough to make up for the elimination of personal exemptions, which deduct more than $4000 of taxable income for each person in your household. With the introduction of the Senate version of the bill, all the supposed tax benefits for middle class folks will disappear in 2025 — but the corporate tax cuts will be permanent.

You have major medical expenses? Sorry, no deduction. Want an education? Tax credits and deductions for student loan interest are gone. Buying a house with a $750,000 mortgage? Only interest on $500,000 is deductible. Lost everything in a disaster, like so many in Houston and the Gulf Coast? Now you’re really out of luck, because the property loss deduction is lost.

And now the Senate has decided to turn its version of the tax bill into a stealth attempt to repeal the ACA. There’s no question that it will cause premiums to go up and at least 13 million people uninsured by 2027.

Some may end up with a scrap of a benefit for a few years, but many won’t. Even those who do actually see a cut will see it turn into a tax increase by 2027 when the tax cuts for individuals phase out.

Extraordinary cuts will be required to pay for this — cuts that will disproportionately target health care programs that millions of Americans depend on. The House’s budget plan depends on more than $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, which is even higher than any of the ACA repeal plans. We expect an immediate $25 billion cut to Medicare, and a total of $500 billion in cuts to Medicare.

All of this is for what? So Wells Fargo can rebuild shareholder value? So the children of billionaires can inherit even more money?

No. It’s not right, and it shouldn’t happen. Tell your representatives that it can’t happen. They work for all 28 million Texans, not just the 83,000 at the top.

Sick of This: Help All Austinites Win Earned Sick Days on 11/16

Guest post from Work Strong Austin Coalition
(Abajo en español)

As Austin continues to grow, too many working people are left without the ability to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families.

All workers, regardless of background, wage level, and occupation, should have access to earned sick days. Unfortunately, approximately 223,000 Austin workers – 37 percent of the total workforce – are at risk of losing wages or being fired if they follow doctor’s orders when they or a family member are ill.

In September, Austin City Council passed a resolution that would begin a public input process to bring Austin working families, business leaders, community groups and public health professionals together to discuss paid sick days. Please join us for the Second Stakeholder Meeting: November 16, 4:00pm – 6:30pm, Town Lake Center Assembly Room 130, 721 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78704. Come and support paid sick days. We need to make sure our voices are heard.

You can also provide feedback to the City of Austin about why it’s critical for all Austinites to have paid sick days on this online forum here. Can you please take a few minutes to fill out this survey.

Learn more about Work Strong Austin’s paid sick days campaign:
English

Español

____________

La ciudad de Austin sigue creciendo, debido a esto demasiadas familias trabajadoras se estan quedando atras en la posibilidad de proveer y mejorar la calidad de vida de si mismos y de sus familias.

Todos los trabajadores, independientemente del tipo de trabajo que hagan o de cuánto ganan, deberían de poder cuidarse a sí mismos o a un ser querido en situaciones de necesidad.Desafortunadamente, aproximadamente 223,000 trabajadores en Austin — lo que equivale al 37 por ciento de la fuerza laboral — están en riesgo de perder salarios o ser despedidos si siguen las órdenes del médico cuando ellos o un miembro de su familia están enfermos.

En Septiembre el Concilio de Austin pasó una resolución para iniciar un proceso público en el cual familias de Austin, negocios, grupos comunitarios, médicos entre otros discutirán la posibilidad de una ordenanza de días de enfermedad pagados. Por favor acompáñenos a la segunda reunión de este proceso el 16 de Noviembre de 4:00pm – 6:30pm, Town Lake Center Assembly Room 130, 721 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78704. Venga a apoyar esta campaña, tenemos que asegurarnos que nuestras voces sean escuchadas.

También puede dar su opinión a la Ciudad de Austin de la importancia crítica para todos que todos los trabajadores tengan este derecho de días de enfermedad pagados. Puede llenar este cuestionario aquí.

30+ Texas Health Groups Send Urgent CHIP letter to Washington

Cross-posted, with permission, from the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP)

Kids' health care can't wait. Renew CHIP now

With a quickly approaching deadline—after which 400,000 Texas kids could be dropped from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—over 30 leading Texas health care and advocacy organizations sent a joint letter to U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott urgently requesting intervention.

As part of the Children’s Health Coverage Coalition, the groups are asking federal leaders to renew CHIP funding as soon as possible.

Waiting to resolve CHIP funding until the end of this year is not an option, because any delay in funding could cause significant disruptions to families staring in early December.

Kids in Texas’ 53 counties affected by Hurricane Harvey might be especially vulnerable, as families struggle to rebuild their lives.

View a copy of the letter here. Texas CHIP enrollment data by county for August 2017 is available here.

Read more about CHIP and CHIP funding here.

To speak to leaders of some of the groups that signed on, please contact:

Children’s Defense Fund- Texas; Dr. Laura Guerra-Cardus LGuerraCar@childrensdefense.org  (713) 419-8422

Texas Pediatric Society, The Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; contact Tricia Hall, Executive Director, C: 512-370-1506

Oliver Bernstein, Center for Public Policy Priorities, 512.289.8618

How Your Voices Made a Difference: Half-Baked, Spurious Nationalism

Congress is stepping up to fill the gap of leadership in Donald’s abdication of responsibility regarding Americans’ health care with a bipartisan plan to fund the critical government subsidies to insurance companies that will keep Americans covered and stabilize the health insurance market in the wake of Donny’s attempts to sabotage it, regardless of the effect on American lives. Donny supports it, then denies that, then condemns it, but some in Congress are trying to move forward to protect Americans’ health care in the face of this administration’s efforts to destroy it.

Two federal judges have yet again blocked Don John’s latest unconstitutional travel ban, stating Donny’s own tweets show it’s unconstitutionally aimed at Muslims.

Public outcry caused Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) to withdraw from Donny’s nomination for him to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy after he was reported to have been involved with lobbying efforts to weaken DEA’s ability to fight drug distributors. As a House Rep he helped Congress effectively strip the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics (opioids) onto the nation’s streets.

Influential public figures are speaking out louder and louder against Donny and his corrupt administration (despite the delusional Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s laughable denials). John McCain made some pointed comments against the current administration, Donny in particular, and its shortcomings, like “half-baked, spurious nationalism” and “people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems” in a world where “leadership and ideals are absent.” He and Joe Biden, longtime friends but often on opposite sides of the foreign policy divide, are teaming up to fight against those who want the U.S. to withdraw from global leadership, giving rise to the hope that decency and a common respect for our country despite party lines will yet triumph over the appalling lack of all of that currently in the White House. Even George W. Bush seems to have broken his silence about this administration, in a not-very-veiled speech pointedly condemning hypernationalism, white supremacy, lies, targeting of Muslims, and authoritarianism. And at a Virginia rally President Barack Obama spoke out against the politics of division, “folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.” We must continue to speak up as well—one fire ant is a nuisance, but thousands are a force capable of toppling any Goliath.

Backlash continues against (another one of) Donald’s lies—that President Obama didn’t call the families of fallen soldiers. In response, a host of high-placed former officials are calling out the lie for what it is: from a former U.S. attorney general, an army general and chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former deputy head of national security—not to mention a flurry of firsthand Twitter denials. And despite the despicable Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s authoritarian claim that it’s “inappropriate” to question a four-star general, many are doing just that in disproving his own lies about Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson.

Meanwhile, the Russia investigations continue to heat up. Robert Mueller’s team interviewed Spicey in an all-day closed-door session, while Jeff Sessions danced around actually answering any substantive questions in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also subpoenaed former Donny adviser Carter Page (you remember, the one who lied about meeting with Russian spy Sergei Kislyak), and they’ve requesteddocuments and testimony from Michael Flynn’s son regarding his ties to Russia and Putin. Donny’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was sequestered with the committee for more than three hours last week. Meanwhile the Daily Beast unearthed evidence of Kellyanne and Donny Jr. pushing Russian propaganda before the election. Panicking GOP lawmakers are starting to squawk about ending all three Russia investigations—call your MoCs and demand that they support it until Mueller decides it’s closed!

A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate that would force social media/news companies like Facebook and Google, etc., to disclose who is purchasing political ads, to hopefully prevent foreign governments from influencing future elections as they did the 2016 presidential election.

A number of generic ballots show that Democrats seem likely at the moment to win more votes in upcoming elections. But it won’t happen unless you VOTE!

How Your Voices Made a Difference: Unraveling

Some weeks are tougher than others, and this was a rough one—between Donny giving companies the right to deny women health care coverage for birth control, to the EPA’s Scott Pruitt rolling back the Obama-era protections of the Clean Power Plan to replace it with his own dirty version and threatening to remove tax incentives for wind and solar power, and of course demented Donald’s latest disgorgements of bile:  trying to circumvent the GOP’s failure to repeal the ACA with an executive order, flouting our First Amendment by threatening to revoke media outlets’ licenses for publishing news he doesn’t like…and the soul-draining childishness of the man-baby-in-chief’s petty feud with Sen. Bob Corker, and GOP lawmakers’ collective cowardly silence in its wake.

But the weird upside of all this awfulness is this: Lately it’s Donny’s own voice making a difference. Don John’s behavior and actions are becoming egregious enough that some of the GOP is beginning to find its spine (and moral compass). Backlash against Donald’s attack on the First Amendment was immediate and bipartisan, including GOP Sen. Ben Sasse’s sharp call-out on Twitter (apparently the new forum of political discourse…sigh). Donald’s attacks against women’s health care have women’s health experts speaking out to refute his premises. His Twitter-tantrum threats to remove aid from Puerto Rico in a crisis “largely of their own making”(while he plays golf yet again) is an attack on and abandonment of more than 3 million Americans drawing broad censure—and his failures as a leader are starkly underscored by five former leaders’ (the five living ex-presidents) banding together to help hurricane victims (of all shades). His undermining a health care system that a majority of Americans now approve of is fueling criticism from states on both sides of the aisle. And his attempts to undermine NAFTA will undoubtedly bring a backlash from the industrial and rural base he so often panders to, who will be most hurt by it. Even Rex Tillerson, after Donald demanded a tenfold increase in nuclear armaments despite decades of policy designed to reduce the nuclear threat worldwide rather than expand it, has realized his boss is a “fucking moron.” (Mensa has kindly offered to host an IQ test to answer the question definitively after Donald tweeted out an “I know you are but what am I” to his secretary of state.) An array of White House insiders report versions of Donny “unraveling” in jaw-droppingly unstable ways.

Meanwhile, the Harvey Weinstein scandal is rocking Hollywood—not only showing conservatives how you handle a sexual predator (by calling it out loudly and publicly, and taking sharp actions against the predator to stop the actions—rather than by defending it and offering it a cable show, or electing it president), but by bringing this rampant sexism and harassment into the light, and showing that women (and James Van Der Beek, one of the disappointingly few courageous men speaking up) will no longer be silent in the face of institutionalized sexual misconduct and abuse. The tide for sanctioning the sexual-predator-in-chief may be turning.

Steps forward are incremental, and not always steady—some weeks it can be hard to see all the progress we are making. But remind yourself of the huge victories the resistance has already won, most decisively stopping every attempt to repeal the ACA, and comfort yourself that Donny’s ratings—sorry, approval numbers—are tanking faster than his loose hold on rationality, even in his rural base, and according to pollster Quinnipiac, 55% of voters believe he is not fit to be president.

Donald’s own actions will wind up bringing him down, as long as we continue holding him and all his defenders in the GOP accountable, and demanding our lawmakers do the same. To that end, on the Russian-investigation front, it’s looking like Bob Mueller is getting close to something that’s making the Donny John camp pretty uncomfortable: Carter Page—Don John’s former campaign manager who got benched after confabbing with Russian diplomat and top spy Sergei Kislyak last year (despite denying speaking with him) and who subsequently met with Putie’s top associates in Russia—has refused to testify before the Senate Intelligence panel in their Russia investigation. You know, like you do when you have something to hide and fear incriminating yourself and perhaps the leader of the free world. Reince Priebus spent an entire day with Mueller’s team, talking about who can only guess what…? Now’s a good time to call your MoCs and ask that they support the two bipartisan bills in Congress proposed to prevent Donald from firing Mueller as he tightens the noose around the man-baby-in-chief’s neck.

You’re not imagining how hard this battle can be—this administration is taking a deep emotional and mental toll on many Americans. But in a glimmer of hope for our collective future in these divided times, 55% of Americans now believe politicians should work more bipartisanly and embrace compromise. (You know, like you do in every single other relationship in your life.)

Hang in there, warriors. If all else fails, Hustler’s Larry Flynt is offering $10 million to anyone who can provide info leading to 45’s impeachment. Really.

Keep Calling: CHIP Is Still Not Funded

Congress failed to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Plan by the September 30 deadline. CHIP gives modest-income families that earn too much for Medicaid an affordable coverage option. What does this mean for the 400,000 Texas children covered by CHIP? According to the Dallas Morning News, a lot of uncertainty, especially for Harvey survivors:

“As…the system absorbs new applicants made eligible by Harvey, some experts fear that between rising demand for care and unpredictable reauthorization, these families will have nowhere to turn for health insurance.”

CHIP has broad, bipartisan support, and the only reason it hasn’t been funded is because of Congress’s ineptitude, and its zeal for repealing the ACA. Call your MoCs in both the House and Senate and tell them to fund the CHIP program before more Texas children and pregnant women lose coverage.

Call Cruz, Cornyn & Paxton Today About Trump’s Decision to End CSR Payments

A worst-case scenario came true: the administration has announced that it will end the cost-sharing reduction payments, or CSRs, that lower out-of-pocket costs for low income enrollees. This may take effect immediately.

The elimination of CSRs is expected to cause premiums to rise on average at least 20% for ALL marketplace consumers, and some insurers may leave the marketplace altogether.

THIS IS NOT WHERE WE SHOULD BE 17 DAYS BEFORE OPEN ENROLLMENT BEGINS!

Here are three calls you need to make, one to each senator, and one to Ken Paxton. (You can also call your House member, but the healthcare working group is in the Senate.) We didn’t fight so long and so hard to have health care for millions ripped away by the sclerotic stroke of a pen.

Scripts courtesy of Celeste Pewter

Calls to Senators

You: Hello, my name is [name]. I’m calling from [zip code].

You: I am calling to ask [Cruz/Cornyn] to publicly denounce the Trump administration’s decision to end cost-sharing reductions for the Affordable Care Act. The CBO and independent studies all show this will increase health premiums by 20 percent or more, and the deficit will be up by $194 billion. (Per the CBO)

You: I am also demanding [Cruz/Cornyn] work with their colleagues to appropriate funding for CSR payments. [Cruz/Cornyn] has to focus on the goal of market stability and reducing premiums, for the good of the constituents they represent.

You: I will be monitoring how [Cruz/Cornyn] chooses to respond, and whether [Cruz/Cornyn] chooses to respond in a way that shows a commitment toward improving healthcare for all.

You: <Insert optional comment here>

Call to Ken Paxton – (512) 463-2100

You: Hi, my name is [name]. I am calling from [zip code]. 

You: I am calling on Ken Paxton to take action against the federal government’s decision to end cost-sharing reduction or CSR payments for the Affordable Care Act.

You: Please use all available legal means, including lawsuits against the federal government, to rectify this attempt to cause instability to the healthcare market.

You: Rising premiums would also cause significant financial challenges for individual states. Please act quickly.

You: <optional comment>

How Your Voices Made a Difference: Zombiecare is Dead

You did it! You beat back ACA repeal—again. I’d love to say “once and for all,” but repeal seems to be the Thing That Won’t Die. But for the third decisive time, public outcry kept the GOP from stripping millions of their coverage and kept Obamacare in place. Next challenge: to get the Republican party to put their efforts behind transparent bipartisan efforts to improve and strengthen the ACA.

Meanwhile, the personal-fiefdom mentality of the “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” (sorry, it’s not old yet) and his administration cronies is coming into sharp focus in recent financial investigations—Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price and his high-dollar charter flights, Stephen “Moochin’ Mnuchin and his (as well as his trophy wife’s snarky little commentary about her taxpayer-funded lifestyle), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his $12K private charter from Vegas to his Montana home (courtesy of us), Veterans Affairs chief David Shulkin’s wife and her taxpayer-funded vacation, and the EPA’s Scott Pruitt and the $25K Get Smart soundproof booth in his office have all come under fire lately for their profligate and inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars. Tom Price resigned over his $400K flying spree (he pledged to repay about one-eighth of that amount—and that was before his additional $500K in military flights came to light). Keep calling your MoCs to protest this abuse of taxpayer dollars and hopefully we can drain more of the swamp that’s sucking funds from public coffers.

After taking the weekend off at his golf course in New Jersey while hurricane Maria battered U.S. territory Puerto Rico, Donald finally bestirred himself to speak about the devastation in its aftermath.Despite initially refusing to waive the Jones Act that prohibits foreign shipping between U.S. territories, as he did for Houston and Florida, public pressure and outcry (as well as John McCain) pressed him to do so, offering much-needed relief supplies to the island. But true to childish, unproductive form, rather than help or offer support, he keeps attacking the mayor and the island’s people in Twitter tantrums.

Jared Kushner may be feeling some very familiar heat—directed his way now rather than at Hillary Clinton—for his use of personal email accounts for official White House emails. It’s not clear whether Donald will instigate calls to lock him up (though I have my doubts), but the revelation has shined a spotlight on this administration’s loosey-goosey use of private email use for government business:Ivanka Trump, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus also have been found to be using personal email for official correspondence. Whoopsie! Bet that’s embarrassing…. The White House claims to have launched an investigation (though that’s a bit like the fox investigating the chickens…), but we need to keep the heat on, demanding an actual investigation by proper (and unbiased) ethics organizations.

How Your Voices Made a Difference: McCain Has the Stones

John McCain once again has the stones (and character) to defy his party to do what he feels is best for his constituents, announcing he “cannot in good conscience” vote for the half-baked Cassidy-Graham health care bill (zombie TrumpCare 3.0) that will jeopardize health care for the elderly, the ill, and women, and has been denounced by a growing number of Republican governors (as well as the bipartisan Medicaid directors from all 50 states, the American Medical Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, AARP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kaiser Permanente, the American Heart Association, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the American Cancer Society). The battle isn’t yet won, though—the GOP could still muster 50 votes if there are no more defections from the party line, and in that case Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote. (And we can all imagine which way that would go down.) Keep calling and showing up at your senators’ offices!

Despite Donald John’s federal ban on sanctuary cities, California—lately serving as America’s conscience in lieu of any guidance in that arena from the White House—voted to make itself an entire sanctuary state. If passed, this legislation will prevent already overburdened state and local law enforcement from being pressed into service as an ad hoc ICE force, and keep communities safer by preventing racial profiling and residents too afraid of being deported to report crimes and help in prosecutions.

Don John’s superfluous election commission, his vanity project whose real goal is to suppress Democrat votes, shake the country’s faith in our election process, and manufacture justification (and perhaps an ego salve) for his baseless claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 election he lost by more than 3 million popular votes, is running into rough road. First an email came to light from one of the most conservative members of Donald’s vanity project in which the committee’s intent to exclude moderate Republicans and Democrats was spelled out; followed by a fact-free op-ed by chairman Kris Kobach in alt-right news site Breitbart calling into question—with no evidence—the results of New Hampshire’s most recent U.S. Senate race; and then another committee member feuded on Twitter with a journalist whose academic credentials he claimed she’d fabricated (she hadn’t). Now even some Republicans are beginning to question the purpose, motives, and methods of the spurious committee.

Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is developing interesting tentacles. His techniques—including aggressively pursuing Donald intimates Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn—are consistent with other investigations that attempt to find the weak link in a chain of illegalities and pull hard on it to yield the big fish (to mix metaphors). For now the White House seems to have deemed it wiser to cooperate—or at least appear to—than to continue dismissing the investigation as a “witch-hunt” and attack Mueller (despite some Keystone Kops-type public vacillating by two of Donald’s lawyers, overheard by the NY Times’s top political reporter). A great rundown on both these stories can be heard on the New York Times’s excellent Daily podcast from September 19, here. Meanwhile, Mueller stepped things up yet again this past week with a request to the White House for 13 categories of extensive records and email correspondence. Seems like he’s circling in on something pretty juicy…. If I were somehow involved in activities on the end of these ever-escalating investigations, I think I might be sweating pretty hard at this point. Maybe trying like hell to distract attention with, say, world-ending threats to a nuke-happy adversary, or recklessly conceived health care legislation, or a complete 180-degree flip on a key campaign issue along with unprecedented bipartisan outreach. Or something like that.

In a delightfully ironic way of drawing attention to the United States’ abnegation of our moral standards under the “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” (thanks, Kim Jong Un) in shutting out so many seeking asylum here (including Donald’s suppression of reports from his own Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees contribute more than $261 billion to our economy…unlike Donald, whose taxes seem to contribute zero), during the UN General Assembly in New York global aid organization Oxfam rented Donald’s childhood home in Queens to house refugees.