politics

Some of my friends and colleagues have been opposing bills which would abolish the Hawaii Health Authority (HHA). The HHA was established back in 2009 “to develop a comprehensive plan to provide universal health care in Hawaii.” Unfortunately, while the Legislature established the HHA, it and three different Governors have neglected to give them any funds for staffing, etc.

I believe those good people opposing Senate Bill 977, among others, are missing the forest for the trees. Abolishing the HHA doesn’t close the door on universal health care in Hawaii, but rather changes how the State might go about creating a plan.

And while they bird-dog the HHA issue, they have, neglected to pay attention to other, more damaging bills. House Bill 407 is just one example, that I became aware of myself just the other day.

The bill, Relating to Insurance,

Authorizes the issuance of employer-sponsored high deductible health. Requires maintenance of health savings accounts in conjunction with high deductible health plans. Requires the employer to fund deductible costs. Specifies that employers and insurers that buy or sell high deductible health plans remain subject to the Prepaid Health Care Act.

This is a bad, a dangerous bill.

Currently, Hawaii has no high deductible health care plans. In fact, I believe the State had previously asked for a specific waiver from the ACA partly to avoid having to create such a plan. But now, the Legislature is considering reversing course.

The bill’s upside would mean insurance premium cost savings for employers who opt for these high deductible plans. It also allows for the creation of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

Put another way, the bill shifts health care costs from employers to their employees by requiring high deductibles. So, the hotel industry, for example, while doing gangbusters with high occupancy rates and higher room rates, wants to keep more of that money by cutting benefits to their employees.

Make no mistake, that’s exactly what this bill does. By reducing their premium costs, they are also forcing their employees to pay more out-of-pocket before their insurance kicks in. Sure, workers may save some money with the assistance of HSAs, but in the long run they will be paying more while their employers are increasing their profit margins.

Intended to makes people more discerning about why and how often they see their doctor, high deductible plans actually reduce positive health care outcomes for people. That’s because high insurance deductibles serve as disincentives for people to seek health care.

Only employers benefit from high deductible insurance plans.

Hopefully HB407 will become one of hundreds of bills that won’t make it to the finish line. Until then, I encourage you to take a look at the bill, spread the word, and do what you can to oppose it and others like it.

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Six years ago today, I was lucky to witness first hand the four years of work come to fruition with the signing of Senate Bill 232 as Act 1 of 2011. Civil Unions had become the law in Hawaii.

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At the time, I was unemployed, but volunteering in Governor Abercrombie’s Policy Office, so I was able to attend the signing ceremony at Washington Place as Part of the Governor’s Office. I didn’t have to scramble for a ticket and was able to witness history without depriving someone else the opportunity.

It was a proud day for me and for so many others who had worked so hard to get to that point. There aren’t many things in my life of which I am more proud to have been a part.

Of course, a little less than three years later, marriage equality would become law. I was lucky to have been in attendance for that signing ceremony as well, but that’s for another time.

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It seems the only traffic my site gets anymore is when I post a video of my lip syncing to songs I like. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time (or much energy) to make any new videos in the last few weeks. Sorry.

School. The legislative session. Trying to wrangle supporters for a fight on a $15 minimum wage for Hawaii. The Kuleana Academy. All these efforts have sucked up so much of my energy, that there’s little left. I’m working to increase my efficiency and time management, but adjustments to my routine are slow to come; I’m a creature of habit. So, until that happens, not only can I not promise regular posts, but I can’t promise regular videos, either.

Still, it’s (mostly) for my intellectual and career betterment, so I hope you’ll understand.

I’ve got a few minutes while my phone and iPad update their software, so I thought I’d share with you a recent assignment I completed. It’s a mock speech I wrote for Donald Trump. This past week in class, we studied the construction of speeches and how people make (political) decisions. The lesson’s final assignment was to write a speech, using polling data from 2015 and the lessons we learned to write a speech for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

At first, I thought writing a speech for Trump would make my skin crawl and my guts and progressive instincts would revolt if I attempt a speech for the cheeto man. But after thinking about it, I thought it would not only be easier (less wonky) and could actually be kinda fun. And so it was.

Hopefully, it will tickle you as much to read it as it did for me to write it:

There are so many wonderful people here today. There are thousands of people here today and all of you want America to be great again. I will make America great again!

Over the past eight years, crime has risen, violence against Americans around the world has risen, the cost of health care has risen, our economy has stagnated, and good jobs have been hard to find. These are all bad things and all are the product of a President and a Congress that has failed too many ordinary, hard-working Americans.

But Wall Street has done gangbusters. They have done terrific while everyday people, ordinary Americans like you good folks here today, have fallen behind. You have struggled. You have lost jobs. And you have lost faith and hope in the America we all love. I love this country!

The politicians in Washington have done nothing. Nothing! They are all talk. When they come home to tell you what they’re doing, what they are going to do to make your lives better, they say all sorts of things. They make promises and do not keep them. When I am elected President of the United States of America, my first order of business, on day one, will be to make sure government is working for the people, not Wall Street and the corporate lobbyists.

You know, I saw a poll the other day. I Pew poll, I think it was. This poll said half of all Americans feel like they are falling behind. Half! And the other half? Well, they are doing ok, but most of them do not see things getting any better for themselves or for their families. If you are not making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and most of you are not, you are struggling. Your families and your friends are struggling.

This same poll, the Pew poll, found that more than eighty percent of you who are making less than one hundred thousand dollars a year, view the economy as poor.

Too many of you believe there aren’t enough good paying jobs. How can this be in the country with the greatest economy in the world? Well, I will tell you. Those good jobs are being given to illegal immigrants. People are crossing our borders, entering our country illegally and taking good jobs from folks like you.

For the greatest country in the history of the world, this is unacceptable. What happened? How did we come to this?

For starters, this country has been taken over by status quo politicians. Lobbyists and banks have rigged the system for themselves. The Washington establishment and Wall Street elites have forgotten about you and have utterly ignored the cries and the needs of good, hard working ordinary Americans. All of you here today because you are being left behind by a system and by leaders who don’t care about you.

The Democrats’ front-runner Hillary Clinton, says America never stopped being great. She says America has always been great. Wow, is she wrong. She is so wrong! She is the queen of the Washington elite. She is bought and paid for by Wall Street and the big banks and she is so out of touch with ordinary Americans. Even Democrats aren’t thrilled with the economic prospects of the country; only about one quarter of them think the economy will improve in the next year.

But I am not like Hillary. I am not a career politician intent on maintaining the status quo. I am not a high-paid Wall Street lobbyist looking out for the interests of my clients. I am not a member of the political establishment. I am a political outsider.

I am in the race for President, not for myself or my family. I am already a very successful businessman with billions of dollars. I am in this race for President of the United States because I love this country. I love its citizens. I love the hard-working people of this country and I want them to be prosperous and successful. I am in this race for President to make that happen, to help all of you who are here with me today.

How can we fix everything that is wrong with our country? How make this country great again?

First, I will start by getting the government out of the pockets of ordinary Americans. Your taxes are too high! And how does the political establishment in Washington spend those hard-earned dollars? They spend them by sending money around the world to help people you have never met in countries you have never heard of. They use your tax dollars to subsidize banks and corporations; the wealthiest among us. I should know. I pay so little in taxes it is unbelievable! This has to change.

As President, I will make sure the government is working for ordinary people. Government will stop taxing to death people like you, people who work hard to support their families.

Second, as President I will make sure good paying jobs stop getting taken by illegal immigrants. We need to put a stop to this right away, but the Washington establishment has done nothing about it. They triangulate, they posture, and they compromise. They worry about how they will be perceived by pollsters and by people around the world. They are more concerned about politics than about doing what is necessary to help Americans now. When I am elected President, I will see to it that our borders are secure and that jobs right here in America are going to hard working citizens!

It is true, too, that too many American jobs are being sent overseas. We are losing too many jobs to places like China. The Chinese are laughing at us. American businesses, tired of wages that are too high and government regulations that are too stringent, are sending their manufacturing jobs, their call center jobs, and even their high-tech jobs to countries all over the world. All the while, the career politicians, the Washington establishment talk to us about free trade and globalization.

And everyone is talking about the minimum wage being too low.

We do not need to raise the federal minimum wage! We need to reduce regulation! We need to get government off the backs of businesses so they can create good paying jobs and bring back good paying jobs to America. Businesses will be set free from burdensome regulations. There will be good paying jobs for Americans, not illegal immigrants. I tell you, when I bring those jobs back from places like China, there will be so many good paying jobs in this country, it will be amazing!

I will do all this and more to make sure Americans can work in jobs they can be proud of. Jobs that will allow them to provide for themselves, for their families. When I become President, Americans will not have to struggle just to get by. And you all will be proud of your country again.

Vote for me and I will take away this rigged government system from the Washington establishment and from Wall Street lobbyists, and giving it back to the people. I will make this country great again.

Vote for me and I will make sure America’s economy is the greatest in the world again!

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I went to my Prime Photos in Amazon to look for a picture for today’s throwback, but Amazon did the work for me.

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This group photo, from one year ago today, was taken after (one of?) the first Hawaii For Bernie organizing meetings in Honolulu.

It marked the beginning of a rollercoaster year. Young and old, there are so many in this picture who weren’t previously politically active. Despite a disappointing Democratic National Convention and General Election, these folks are still engaged, determined to change the world.

I may not always show it, or say so, but these people are awesome.

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in the weeks following the general election in november, there have been countless commentaries on “what happened” and “who’s to blame.” with little deviation, the consensus i’ve seen develop seems to coalesce around a list of problems and failures:

  • mainstream news misreading, or ignoring signs of deep discontent
  • pervasive “fake news”
  • polling flaws
  • democrats’ and the clinton campaign’s failure to appeal to and turn out a core portion of their base, i.e. white-working class voters

but the other day i saw an article shared on facebook which absolutely made me angry: it’s time for bernie sanders to apologize to his supporters, and to president obama.

i think everyone knows at this point that i was a strong sanders supporter. i was a campaign leader here in hawaii and went to philadelphia as a sanders-pledged delegate.

the author, a perfect example of a whiny, entitled white woman who had no problem with clinton being anointed the nominee and next president by the dnc and media elite, respectively. the author’s myopic view atop her pedestal is bernie shouldn’t have run at all, let alone mount a competitive campaign of hope and change. he should “apologize for disrupting the historic milestone of the first female nominee for president of the united states with threats and fears.” then she goes on to insult his supporters.

never mind the fact that clinton was wildly unpopular among primary and general voters. never mind working class people across the country haven’t climbed out of the 2008 recession hole, but she claimed america is already great. never mind she angrily and uniformly insulted everyone who was inclined toward trump. it seems the article’s author is one who thinks democracy is a formality; it was hillary’s turn and how dare anyone challenge the democratic establishment and the democratic leadership council (dlc).

the author also seems to either have selective memory, or wasn’t paying close attention to things post convention. bernie spoke to issues, not personality. she also refers to obama’s popularity, as a sign that people would have been happy with clinton, which i think is a flawed assumption.

for one, as of december 5, his approval rating was in the mid 50’s; certainly not a glowing endorsement of his job performance. and i’m not sure his number wouldn’t be lower were it not for a certain nostalgia that set in as americans began to pay attention to the presidential election. at the beginning of the year, his approval rating was in the mid 40’s.

two, leading up to, during, and following the democratic national convention in july, bernie urged his supporters to get on board with clinton, telling them she was a far better choice than trump. then he went out and stumped for her for the last few months of the campaign.

three, the author seems to blame sanders and not clinton for the slow and reluctant migration of his supporters to her. in during a town hall with rachel meadow, clinton oozes contempt at the suggestion that she needs to woo sanders supporters. “i have a bigger lead in pledged delegates than senator obama, when i ran against him in 2008, ever had over me. i am winning!” for voters who were already disinclined toward clinton, her contempt for us certainly didn’t help.

clinton and the dnc should apologize for refusing to see the signs in front of them. had the system (including mainstream media) been truly neutral, i believe we might have a different president-elect right now. had democrats been more interested in who was the candidate with the best chance of beating the republicans than they were of “breaking the glass ceiling,” maybe clinton supporters and the dnc wouldn’t be standing around pointing fingers at everyone but themselves over who’s to blame.

senator sanders should apologize? i don’t think so.

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