Bill Kaplan: Trump, his racist mob and Ron Johnson lost

Bill Kaplan: Trump, his racist mob and Ron Johnson lost

Photo by Gage Skidmore (cc-by-sa-2.0)

Last week began with Democratic Senate wins in Georgia and control of the Senate. Senator-elect Raphael Warnock said: “We are sending an African-American pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. served, and also Jon Ossoff, a young Jewish man, the son of an immigrant, to the U.S. Senate. … In this moment, we’ve got to bring people together in order to do the hard work.”

Then a racist mob, waving Confederate flags and some wearing clothing adorned with “Camp Auschwitz”, stormed the U.S. Capitol, killing a Capitol Police officer and desecrating the Capitol, including a memorial to civil rights icon Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis. The mob had marched to the Capitol after Trump called his presidential election loss an “egregious assault on our democracy” and told his followers to “walk down to the Capitol” and not show “weakness.”

Wyoming GOP Representative Liz Cheney said: “There’s no question the president formed the mob, … incited the mob … addressed the mob. He lit the flame.” In December, Trump tweeted: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” It was: 5 dead, pipe bombs and a truck filled with 11 Molotov cocktails (crude bombs) and a semiautomatic rifle. The Capitol invasion halted a congressional session to officially ratify the presidential election. The session was previously interrupted by Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson and like-minded GOP colleagues, to raise baseless allegations about “election irregularities.”

However, a group of historians and constitutional scholars said: “Never before in our history has a president who lost reelection tried to stay in office by subverting the democratic process set down by the Constitution. … Unable to accept his defeat, President Trump and his collaborators have falsely charged massive electoral fraud … They have concocted and spread falsehoods that inflame Americans against their own government, and against each other.” Moreover, the voters have spoken, courts rejected Trump’s lawsuits and the Electoral College ratified Joe Biden’s win. But Johnson disingenuously said: “We are not acting to thwart the democratic process – we are acting to protect it.” A lie.

Before Congress reconvened, the National Association of Manufacturers issued an extraordinary statement: “Armed violent protestors who support the baseless claim by outgoing President Trump that he somehow won an election that he overwhelmingly lost have stormed the U.S. Capitol today, attacking police officers and first responders, because Trump refused to accept defeat in a free and fair election. … This is not law and order.” A chastened Johnson dropped his objections. It doesn’t remove his stain of dishonor.

Johnson hears conspiratorial voices, but doesn’t hear those fearful of losing their pensions, healthcare or jobs, or small dairy farmers crushed by market forces beyond their control. He must be defeated if he runs for reelection in 2022.

Impeaching Trump or invoking the 25th Amendment are fool’s errands. Moreover, Congress officially confirmed Biden’s victory. He takes office January 20, hitting the ground running to begin an economic recovery and end the worsening pandemic.

— Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s Green New Deal State Budget Priorities

Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s Green New Deal State Budget Priorities

2021 is our best chance to win climate justice reform in over a decade. We can’t let this opportunity slip away! Citizen Action is fighting for a Green New Deal for Wisconsin rural and metro areas, both to head off a climate genocide and create true economic equity for everyone, especially for communities of color and rural areas excluded from opportunity.

Recently Gov. Tony Evers’ climate task force, Chaired by Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes, released its recommendations for action. But this does not mean they will be included in the Governor’s state budget.

We need your voice to be heard now to make serious progress on a climate transition that improves economic opportunity and racial equity.

We are calling on Gov. Evers to include the following policies in his state budget:

  1. State funding for local Climate Action Plans (CAPs), to give every community the resources needed to develop and begin to implement climate & equity plans.
  2. State funding for New Deal-style transitional jobs programs for getting everyone locked out of economic opportunity into energy conservation or renewable energy jobs that cut climate emissions.
  3. To avert massive home energy shut-offs once the pandemic is under control, forgive all consumer utility debt run up during the health emergency.
  4. Mandate all utilities to provide “on-bill financing” for home solar panels and energy conservation upgrades at no cost to homeowners and renters, slashing utility bills, and generating green jobs.
  5. Allow cities and municipalities to raise building standards in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions and generate local renewable energy and conservation jobs.

Please contact Gov. Evers today and ask him to include these climate & economic opportunity policies in his next state budget scheduled for release on January 26th.

Bill Kaplan: New Year’s resolution, bipartisan cooperation

Bill Kaplan: New Year’s resolution, bipartisan cooperation

Hope is in the air with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, President-elect Joe Biden and a new Congress. Biden said: “Brighter days are coming. But it’s going to take all the grit and determination we have as Americans to get it done.” He promised enhanced national educational and vaccination efforts, using all the powers of the federal government. Moving forward, Biden will ask “the American people to wear a mask for the first 100 days … .” And, he thanked former New Jersey GOP Governor Chris Christie for “encouraging people to do the right thing and wear a mask for themselves, their loved ones, and their country.”

The pandemic will worsen before getting better. Nationally a cumulative 20 million+ cases and 350,000+ deaths. Wisconsin endures a cumulative total near 500,000 cases and approaching over 5,000 deaths. A divided Wisconsin must rise to the COVID-19 challenge. As Ohio GOP Governor Mike DeWine said: “The virus doesn’t care if we voted for Donald Trump (or) Joe Biden.” Louisiana GOP Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died of COVID-19 as did newly elected New Hampshire GOP House Speaker Dick Hinch.

There are encouraging signs of bipartisan cooperation in Wisconsin. Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan and GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos showed leadership in jointly urging all Wisconsinites to wear masks, practice physical distancing and trying to stay home while awaiting vaccination. Pocan later pressed Vos to require masks in the Assembly. Moreover, Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin and GOP Congressman Bryan Steil issued joint letters to Evers and Trump asking for “accurate and transparent information” on vaccine distribution. And, 8th District GOP state Senator Alberta Darling was spot-on in condemning the “intentional destruction of vaccine doses” in Grafton.

However, much more is needed. Evers and Vos should build confidence and counter mistrust by getting vaccinated together publicly. The urban and increasingly suburban vs. rural divide must be surmounted to beat COVID-19. Moreover, Evers should ask all former governors to sign on to a joint statement imploring Wisconsinites to wear a mask and get vaccinated. Bipartisan cooperation is also needed on healthcare coverage.

The new state legislative session demands a reset between Evers and GOP leaders. The nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum’s recent report projecting a $373.1 million deficit points the way to “help close the gap” between spending and revenue – Medicaid expansion. 38 states, including many GOP-led, have done so. During the Trump administration, GOP-led Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah adopted Medicaid expansion. Time for Wisconsin to make the fiscal and moral choice.

Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley said: “I think we have the opportunity to demonstrate more clearly now than ever that accepting the Medicaid money, which is ours and it is there for us to just take, we could be helping our budget more than hindering it.” Similarly, former 32nd District GOP state Senator Dan Kapanke said: “As far as Medicaid dollars coming from the federal government, certainly with COVID the dynamics have changed … I would be open to accepting those dollars … .” On Wisconsin.

— Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

Bill Kaplan: COVID-19 apocalypse is here

Bill Kaplan: COVID-19 apocalypse is here

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“The pandemic has worsened across the country over the last two months, but perhaps nowhere as precipitously as in Wisconsin. Testing centers are overwhelmed, raising the risk of further spread as people who might otherwise learn they are infected delay isolating themselves” (NYT). Hospitals are near capacity, our medical heroes are at a breaking point and PPE is running out. The COVID-19 apocalypse is here.

There are 300,000+ cases, with 2,600+ deaths in Wisconsin. And, many of the sick will suffer lasting “damage (to) the lungs, heart and brain” (NYT). There have been 11 million cases and 250,000 dead nationally. Moreover, there is a leadership vacuum in Washington, despite the mounting horror.

“It seems clear Trump has checked out … . It’s pretty clear he feels wounded. Under those circumstances, the idea he’s going to pay more attention to the details of governance is ridiculous” (Norman Ornstein, conservative scholar). Wisconsin cannot wait for president-elect Joe Biden to take office.

Last week, a downcast, exhausted Governor Tony Evers delivered a statewide plea: “Wisconsin, this is serious. This crisis is urgent.” He implored Wisconsinites to take precautions – wear a mask, avoid crowds and limit social gatherings. Evers also relitigated the past, pointing out how GOP legislative leaders have repeatedly sued to have COVID-19 safety rules overturned. GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, reacting to Evers, said it might be time to “hit the reset button”. However, he then listed all his grievances to the press, calling Evers a “dictator” for imposing a mask mandate. Enough!

Personal responsibility hasn’t worked. “An evaluation of state policies showed greater declines in daily COVID-19 cases after issuing mask mandates compared with states that did not have mandates” (JAMA). 34 states have mask mandates. Many GOP governors get it. Ohio GOP Governor Mike DeWine said: “Wear a mask, so that your friends, neighbors and family might live.” And, Utah GOP Governor Gary Herbert declared a mask mandate last week: “Under this requirement, all Utahns must wear masks in public … (and) in business settings … . We cannot afford to debate this issue.” Does Vos think those mask mandate conservatives are “dictators”?

Time for a reset. Governor Evers would be wise to ask a prominent Republican to serve in his administration to show goodwill and reinforce that safety rules are nonpartisan. GOP legislative leaders need to meet Evers at least halfway. The “Stop the COVID Spread” coalition (health care and business groups) could be helpful in that, and more.

For example, make the case that wearing a mask is not optional. Point out how Republicans across the nation support a mask mandate. Second, join the AMA in condemning “highly offensive claims that physicians are inflating the number of COVID-19 cases to increase (their) incomes.” Third, lend your skills to help Wisconsin manufacture N95 masks and freezers for vaccine storage. Important for rural hospitals.

Wisconsin is on its own until January. Wearing masks and social distancing (no holiday gatherings, political demonstrations) could help check the COVID-19 surge while vaccine developments advance.

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

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Bill Kaplan: Wisconsin is at a COVID-19 tipping point

Joe Biden won a majority of the popular vote, is approaching 300+ electoral college votes and will become president on January 20, 2021. And, there will be no veto-proof majority in the Wisconsin GOP-led legislature. Now it’s time for governing, including compromise, negotiation, respect for opponents (they are not enemies) and acceptance of science.

I spoke with Doctor Bill Melms, Chief Medical Officer, Marshfield Clinic. He said: “We are at a tipping point in Wisconsin. As we continue to see increases in the daily rate of new cases of COVID-19, we must expect that the number of hospitalized patients will continue to increase as well.” There are now about 270,000 cases, over 2,300 deaths.

Doctor Melms explained: “We will not see the light at the end of this tunnel until we start to see the number of new cases decrease, and we will not see this until there is a change in behavior. … (Wisconsinites must) wear a mask, socially distance and avoid situations where others do not mask or distance. If you are told to quarantine, please do so.” This is nonpartisan advocacy based on science.

Ohio GOP Governor Mike DeWine understands. He said: “This virus doesn’t care if we voted for Donald Trump, (or) Joe Biden. It’s coming after all of us. … Most states … (have) put on a mask mandate. … It can work at the state level and it has worked.” Why? “Face coverings decrease the amount of infectious virus exhaled into the environment, reducing the risk an exposed person will become infected” (JAMA).

Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin GOP governor and now president of the UW System, has taken bold action: A mask mandate, social distancing, widespread testing, contact tracing and housing to quarantine the sick. He said: “I’m of the opinion that when you have … an outside enemy like this virus, you have to fight it on a bipartisan basis.” He has appealed to the country “to come together”.

We need to find common ground. The state health system is overwhelmed, especially in rural areas. Doctor Melms said: “While rural and urban health care organizations face some of the same fundamental challenges, some of those challenges are magnified in the rural setting. Staffing is a prominent example.” Moreover, rural hospitals lack intensive care beds, adequate transit and enough PPE.

To move forward I propose the following: Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers would be wise to ask a prominent Republican to serve in his administration to reach out to GOP legislative leaders. I would suggest Governors Evers touch base with Thompson, former GOP state Senator Dale Schultz and retiring GOP state Senator Luther Olsen. And, take a look at how North Carolina (NC) Blue Cross-Blue Shield, doctors, Nonwoven Institute and Freudenberg Performance Materials are collaborating to manufacture N95 masks in NC. We could do the same in Wisconsin.

Finally, Doctor Melms recommended: “Spend the (Thanksgiving) holiday with your household contacts and not with your extended family and friends. There will be better days ahead.”

— Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995-2009.

Bill Kaplan: Supreme Court may end ACA during pandemic.

Bill Kaplan: Supreme Court may end ACA during pandemic.

The pandemic hasn’t “disappeared”, but continues unabated as the economy stalls with permanent jobs disappearing. Most federal aid has ended, despite escalating small business failures, farmers facing loss of markets and inadequate prices and hunger persisting. “Chances dim on stimulus package … (as) Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) called a proposed expansion of Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax credits to the unemployed ‘an enormous betrayal’ of the GOP’s longstanding opposition to Obamacare” (Washington Post).
Ken Holmes, a Green Bay COVID-19 survivor, said: “We have nearly 1,000 people a day dying of COVID. If you had three jetliners going down every day, would you get on an airplane? I don’t think many people would. But they sure don’t want to wear a mask” (WP). A failure by Trump (and Wisconsin GOP legislative leaders) to heed medical advice on masks and social distancing has “taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy” (New England Journal of Medicine).

The U.S. continues to lead the world with about 7.7 million COVID-19 cases and 215,000 deaths. Wisconsin saw a new daily record of 3,132 cases, adding to about 150,000 cases, near 1,500 deaths. Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers moved to open up a field hospital to relieve rural and other hospitals with few open beds. State GOP legislators have no plan.

Neither does White House and GOP-led Senate. Trump ended negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on an economic stimulus bill, telling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “not to delay, but to instead focus full time on approving my outstanding nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.” The Senate Judiciary Committee begins confirmation hearings on Monday. Why the rush?

If Barrett is speedily confirmed she will be able to hear a lawsuit challenging the ACA’s constitutionality (November 10th). Trump and Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson are obsessed with having the court strike down the ACA. Moreover, Barrett is on the record expressing opposition to the ACA. Johnson, recovering from COVID-19, said nothing would stop him from voting for Barrett: “If we have to go in and vote, … I’ll go in a moon suit.” He prattled on: “I would certainly try to find a way – making sure that everybody was safe.” Oblivious!

Johnson doesn’t believe as he did in 2016 in waiting until after the election. Then he helped block a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, six months before the election. Now, he wants to tilt the Supreme Court to strike down the ACA. Healthcare coverage for over 20 million, protections for about 54 million with preexisting conditions and treating women’s benefits – premiums equally are at risk.

It’s not the first time Johnson has played an odious role. Johnson “single-handedly” blocked Victoria Nourse, a widely respected UW-Madison law professor, from a confirmation hearing for a seat on the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals (MJS). Under Trump, Johnson voted to put Barrett on that court. Now, an irresponsible power grab to put Barrett on the Supreme Court.

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

Bill Kaplan: Trump and Johnson harmed country and themselves.

Bill Kaplan: Trump and Johnson harmed country and themselves.

The pandemic is not “under control” nor is “the end in sight”. Instead, the U.S. leads the world with 7.4 million COVID-19 cases and about 210,000 deaths. Wisconsin is seeing record daily increases, well over 130,000 cases, near 1,400 deaths and hospitalizations hitting new highs. Staggering.

The NYT reports: “Oshkosh, Wis. – Steve VanderLoop, 64, heard that several of his co-workers at a manufacturing plant in Wisconsin had fallen ill from COVID-19. Then there was his brother-in-law’s entire family in nearby Washington County. A good friend in Appleton, up the shore of Lake Winnebago. And last week, the gut punch: Mr. VanderLoop’s 96-year-old mother learned she had the virus”.

Wisconsin has “nearly half the places with the worst outbreaks now.” In descending order: Oshkosh-Neenah, Green Bay, Appleton, La Crosse, Platteville, Marinette, Stevens Point and Fond du Lac (NYT). Yet Trump and many Wisconsin GOP politicians campaigned around the state with abandon. No masks or social distancing. Trump said: “We’ve had no negative effect (at the rallies) … .” More of the same was scheduled for La Crosse (later Janesville) and Green Bay.

Doctors, local leaders and Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers implored Trump to reconsider, to no avail. Then Trump and Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson tested positive for COVID-19. The irresponsible and reckless campaign rallies were canceled. Trump was flown by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, “getting care, treatments available to few other Americans” (Washington Post). It is not clear what Trump’s condition is. Johnson said he would self-quarantine. Trump’s wife, 2 other GOP senators, several White House aides, Trump advisers, his campaign manager and the head of the Republican National Committee all tested positive. No zip code or political party is immune.

Trump and Johnson have downplayed the risk of coronavirus from the beginning. Masks and social distancing are avoided — or worse, mocked. Doctors and scientists are reviled. Both have pushed unproven or potentially dangerous treatments. All the while, low-balling the death toll, erroneously comparing COVID-19 fatalities to the less than 40,000 annual auto-related deaths. Moreover, Wisconsin GOP state legislators have obstructed every effort by Governor Evers to control coronavirus infection and spread.

Finally, Trump went to the Supreme Court to have the Affordable Care Act (ACA) struck down. And, he is trying to stack the deck with his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett who has disparaged the ACA. Good-bye coverage for over 20 million and protections for many more with preexisting conditions, including 7.4 million who tested positive for COVID-19.

Senate Democrats, including Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, are fighting back. They, along with 6 GOP senators (not Johnson), voted to block the Trump administration from supporting the lawsuit against the ACA. Johnson supported a nonsensical alternative that would allow insurers to offer bare-bones coverage, set annual and lifetime limits and charge women higher premiums.

Joe Biden is right to offer thoughts and prayers for Trump (and Johnson), despite their misdeeds. He is also right to keep fighting to save (and improve) the ACA.

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 — 2009.

Bill Kaplan: Healthcare coverage and protections in jeopardy

Bill Kaplan: Healthcare coverage and protections in jeopardy

This election has always been about healthcare. Trump’s incompetent pandemic response has resulted in the U.S. leading the world with about 7 million COVID-19 cases and over 205,000 deaths. Wisconsin is in the national spotlight with record daily increases, about 115,000 cases, and 1,300 deaths. The horrific national death toll is projected to reach 410,000 by year’s end.

The economic and healthcare coverage impact has been catastrophic. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned that failure by Congress and Trump to agree on another pandemic economic relief bill could “scar and damage the economy”. Meanwhile, millions of the unemployed, including tens of thousands in Wisconsin, have lost health insurance. This has not stopped the Trump Administration from trying to have the Affordable Care Act (ACA) declared unconstitutional.

One week after the election the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a lawsuit orchestrated in 2018 by then Wisconsin GOP Governor Scott Walker and other Republican governors. They seized on the repeal of the tax penalty for not having health insurance. Trump has defied defending established federal laws, and joined in asking the Supreme Court to strike down the entire ACA. However, Tennessee GOP Senator Lamar Alexander said: “I am not aware of a single senator who said they were voting to repeal Obamacare (ACA) when they voted to eliminate the individual mandate (tax) penalty” in the 2017 tax cuts.

Trump and the GOP-led Senate are speeding to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat before the election. If his nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, is confirmed before November 10, she will hear the ACA case and be able to rule that the ACA is unconstitutional. Barrett is on record: (Chief Justice John) “Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute”. Trump also wants a pliant court majority, as he threatens to contest the election results should he lose. Hence the rush.

If the ACA is struck down, about 54 million Americans, including nearly 900,000 Wisconsinites, with preexisting conditions would find themselves uninsurable or paying far more for bare-bones coverage with annual and lifetime caps. Women would again pay higher rates. And, over 11 million, including more than 200,000 Wisconsinites, would lose ACA private insurance. Rural Wisconsinites in the 3rd and 7th congressional districts (voted for Trump) would be disproportionately impacted. 2 million young adults would no longer have coverage under their parents’ plan. 12 million more adults would lose coverage in states that expanded Medicaid. Moreover, the elderly would pay more for Medicare drug coverage.

What to do? Vote for Joe Biden- Kamala Harris and a Democratic-led Congress. Biden will preserve and strengthen the ACA: adding a public coverage option, expanding subsidies to the middle class to buy private insurance, lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 and using Medicare’s scale to negotiate drug prices. In states like Wisconsin that did not expand Medicaid, eligible individuals could get “premium free access to the public option”.

Vote for healthcare coverage and protections. The ACA is in jeopardy.

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

Bill Kaplan: Justice Ginsburg, the election, fear and hope.

Bill Kaplan: Justice Ginsburg, the election, fear and hope.

Trump’s incompetent response to the pandemic has left the U.S. with the highest case and death toll in the world. There are 6.8 million cases nationally, over 100,000 in Wisconsin. U.S. deaths are above 200,000, over 1,200 in Wisconsin. And, the economy is in shambles, with mass unemployment and escalating business failures. Misery abounds.

When asked if he regretted anything about his response, Trump said: “No, I think we did a great job.” That rang hollow to many in Wisconsin as multiple records of daily COVID-19 cases were broken last week. But Trump said: “If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level.” Former Pennsylvania GOP Governor Tom Ridge responded: “It’s so unworthy of a president. … It’s almost unspeakable in the middle of a pandemic to try to divide the country on a political basis … .”

When the news broke Friday night that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, fear was palpable. Why? Trump acts like a tin-pot dictator, flouting norms and undermining our judicial system, while denigrating the military and press. Moreover, Trump blusters about delaying the November election and becoming president for life. Imagine another Trump Supreme Court justice to enable him.

Wisconsin Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin tweeted: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived an inspiring and historic life, and her work has shaped America for the better. As a woman, I join so many others who will not allow her legacy to be diminished or disrespected.” Utah GOP Senator Mitt Romney said: “Justice Ginsburg served our nation with a deep reverence for the law and our Constitution. Her fight for women’s equality inspired all women to pursue their dreams without limits… .” Lacking shame, Senator Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader, declared he would act to put a Trump nominee on the Supreme Court, in glaring contrast to his refusal to consider President Obama’s nominee in early 2016. Back then, McConnell said: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy (Justice Scalia died) should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Joe Biden responded: “The voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider.” The GOP-led Senate has a 53-47 majority. Four GOP senators would be needed to prevent McConnell and Trump from “ramming through a Supreme Court appointment only a few months before the next president’s inauguration” (NYT). Don’t count on Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson, a flip-flopper like McConnell. However, Alaska GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski is opposed to a new justice before the election. And, Maine GOP Senator Susan Collins said whoever wins the presidential election should choose the nominee.

Healthcare coverage and protections, e.g., preexisting conditions, are in jeopardy because the Supreme Court will rule after the election if the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Vote for a Democratic-led Congress and Joe Biden. Hope.

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

Bill Kaplan: Trump and Johnson, duplicitous and deadly

Photo by Glenn Fawcett
Photo by Glenn Fawcett

Trump and Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson made the U.S. number 1: more COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other country. There are about 6.5 million COVID-19 cases nationally, skyrocketing to near 90,000 in Wisconsin. U.S. deaths are about 195,000, over 1,200 in Wisconsin. Was this catastrophe inevitable? No.

Trump told author-journalist Bob Woodward, on tape, that he intentionally downplayed the virus for months, despite knowing it was easily transmissible “deadly stuff”. Johnson also minimized COVID-19 by falsely claiming that more people die in auto accidents. And, he heartlessly said COVID-19 was “not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population … probably far less.”

Trump kept comparing COVID-19 to the flu, pretending everything was “under control” and that COVID-19 would soon “disappear”. Moreover, Trump and Johnson proposed dangerous or unproven treatments. Trump, advised by “My Pillow” executive Mike Lindell, wants oleandrin, so-called medical herb, reviewed by the FDA. Why all this disingenuous nonsense?

Trump and Johnson are not the brightest bulbs. In March, Trump told Woodward: “I wanted to always play (COVID-19) down. I still like playing it down because, I don’t want to create a panic. This is deadly stuff.” Laughable, there has never been a president who engages in more scaremongering than Trump. Johnson, seeking to distract from COVID-19 and the failing economy, smears Joe Biden: “hyping Biden-Ukraine conspiracy theories right before the election, (advancing) a Russian disinformation plot” (Washington Post).

Trump and Johnson don’t want COVID-19 and the recession to tank the stock market, built on a house of cards. But Wall Street and Main Street are not the same. The top 10 percent own 83 percent of the financial markets. Main Street is about production, services and jobs. However, Trump and Johnson keep saying the economy is “roaring back”, ignoring widespread human misery.

“Yet there is ample evidence that Americans are hurting. Roughly 14 million people remain out of work. Last month, about 40 percent of renters were facing the prospect of being kicked out of their homes for failure to pay rent. About 29 million people are drawing some form of unemployment assistance … . Permanent job losses continue to rise at an alarming rate … while thousands of small businesses are at risk of closing for good without additional help” (WP). Farmers face disaster and Americans are going hungry.

However, Trump said: “Our country is doing so well”. And, Johnson hit a new low: “Possibly, some of our unemployment insurance might be funding (rioters in Kenosha).” The MJS flatly said: “There is no evidence… .” Both hope that the Supreme Court will strike down the ACA with its protections for preexisting conditions and coverage of millions. Meanwhile, Trump and the GOP-led Senate twiddle their thumbs. What to do?

Biden has assembled a bipartisan team to distribute-produce personal protective equipment, increase testing and work with scientists on creating affordable, effective and safe vaccines. He will expand and strengthen the ACA. Controlling COVID-19 will enable a genuine economic recovery.

— Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.