Griffith Supports Trump’s Tax Plan (That Raises Taxes on his Constituency)

Rep. Morgan Griffith plays the good soldier in this MSNBC interview, supporting president Chirp’s tax plan. Griffith asserts that the plan will benefit everyone. Here’s the finding from the Tax Policy Center

“Those with the very highest incomes would receive the biggest tax cuts. The tax cuts are smaller as a percentage of income in 2027, and taxpayers in the 80th to 95th income percentiles would, on average, experience a tax increase.”

So, the top 1% get the most benefit, while those on the bottom may see an increase. Since the average income in the 9th District is just under $37,000 (according to Wikipedia), a good percentage of voters in the district fall between the 80 – 95 percentile.

Again, as with health care, Griffith supports president Chirp against the interest of his constituents.

What a True Leader Sounds Like (Hint: It’s Not Trump)

There were racial slurs written on five doors at the Air Force Academic Preparatory School. Here’s the response from Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy. Five minutes long, the video teaches how a leader should have acted regarding Charlottesville and the NFL situation. He makes two key points.

  • Leaders lead by uniting, not dividing. Had Trump really wanted to resolve the NFL situation (not that it needed his attention) he would have invited players and owners to a closed-door meeting, not fanned the flames in an Alabama stump speech. Trump made the situation much, much worse, not better.
  • Our diversity makes us stronger. Trump’s anti-Muslim, gay, Mexican, handicapped, woman-related comments show that he doesn’t believe this, and I suspect that most people who accuse kneeling NFL players of disrespecting the flag rather than protesting police brutality and other inequalities don’t believe this either.

This talk is five minutes in length and is beautiful and inspiring. In many ways, the armed services represent the best of us and America; I wish all of us could adhere to the ideals Lt. Gen. Silveria speaks of.

Gillespie Ad Campaign Founded on Lies

The most recent round of Gillespie attack ads funded by the Koch brothers focus on $1.4 million granted by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to a Chinese company that later turned out to be a fraud. Northam is one of 24 directors of VEDP, and the advertisements accuse Northam of wasting $1.4 million dollars.

While this waste did happen, the lie behind the advertisements is that Northam is responsible for the loss. As stated in the Washington Post, “board members were not directly involved in grant decisions; grants were recommended by staff and approved by the governor.”

After this waste was reported, VEDP was audited by the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. The report recommended sweeping changes to how VEDP was managed, but also noted that VEDP was succeeding at its essential purpose, stating:

VEDP’s export promotion (international trade) programs have demonstrated success in assisting Virginia companies with selling their products in international markets. VEDP’s programs aimed at promoting growth in international exports largely follow fundamental industry practices, are held in high regard by stakeholders and staff at VEDP-equivalent organizations in other states, and have demonstrated positive results.

In short, Northam wasn’t responsible for the $1.4 million grant, and VEDP was succeeding at its essential purpose.

Why Go Negative? Nothing to be Positive About

Why did Gillespie and the Koch brothers go negative? Because there is absolutely nothing to be positive about regarding Gillespie’s qualifications for the job. He has absolutely no state-level legislative or executive experience. If you peruse the chart below, you’ll see that he spent 18 of the last 20 years peddling access to public officials as a Washington lobbyist.

Interestingly, that’s exactly what the last Republican governor did when Bob McDonnell accepted over $175,000 in gifts to connect a businessman with state officials, resulting in a federal indictment. Do you want to vote another individual with this skill set back to the same office?

Don’t Sit This One Out

This election pits a principled and highly-respected Army veteran and physician with twelve years of in-the-trenches state legislative and executive experience against a former Enron-lobbyist with literally no qualifications for the job he is seeking.

Don’t let the Koch brothers and their negative ads buy this election. Go out and vote for Ralph Northam.

Gillespie’s Flawed Tax Cut Plan

In the last two decades, a number of states have cut taxes deeply in hopes of spurring economic gains, with unimpressive results.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

If there was a Republican talking doll, you would pull its string and it would say “cut taxes.” That’s what every Republican candidate preaches, including Ed Gillespie, as if anticipating some sort of Pavlovian voter response. Specifically, Gillespie promises that his 10% tax cut will diversify the Virginia economy and create 50,000 new full-time private-sector jobs in five years.

The problem is, it just won’t work. How can we be so sure? Because states have tried it many times in the past, and it almost always fails.

For example, in 2012, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s plan cut the top income tax rate from 6.45% to 4.9% and the bottom rate from 3.5% to 3.0%, and stopped taxing pass-through business entities like partnerships and sole proprietorships. The goal was to create new jobs, convince businesses to move to Kansas and to increase disposable income in the state by $2 billion dollars in five years.

What happened? Revenues edged up slightly in 2013 and dropped by close to 25%, or $700 million dollars thereafter (see chart below). Former state budget director Duane Goossen (now with the Kansas Center for Economic Growth), estimated that if the tax cuts hadn’t occurred, Kansas would be collecting more than a billion dollars a year in extra taxes.

Tax revenues and education spending in Kansas after 2012 tax cut.

Since Kansas must have a balanced budget by law, the revenue shortfall spurned massive spending cuts across the state, mostly out of the education budget (see chart above). As a result, “Kansas falls well below national averages in a wide range of public services from K-12 education to housing to police and fire protection.” What about job creation? Kansas job creation trailed the US average significantly, and also trailed in GDP growth. On June 7, the Republican-controlled Kansas legislature boosted income taxes to stop the bleeding, overriding the Governor’s veto to do so.

Analyzing the Kansas cuts, the Brookings Institute stated:

There are other, more general takeaways from the tax cut experiment. When Kansas cut taxes, its bond rating went down, and it had to cut central services such as education and infrastructure. After seeing this, a majority of Kansans decided they would not prefer to keep the tax cuts. The experiment in Kansas has important implications for federal tax reform, the first being not to expect tax cuts to boost the economy much, if at all.

More Tries, More Failures

Back in 2015, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed five states that cut taxes in an attempt to create more jobs. As you can see in the chart below, four of the five trailed the US average.

The Center also tracked job growth in the biggest tax-cutting states in the early 2000s, and in the 1990s, and analyzed other studies tracking the same issues. The Center concluded, 

States considering personal income tax cuts this legislative session should be skeptical of claims that these tax cuts will improve the state’s economic performance. In the last two decades, a number of states have cut taxes deeply in hopes of spurring economic gains, with unimpressive results.

Rather than bet their futures on a tax-cutting approach that has not worked well in the past, states would do better to concern themselves with improving their schools, transportation networks, and other public services that act as building blocks of economic growth.

Regarding Kansas, back in 2012, Kansas Governor Brownback called his plan a “real live experiment.” It’s an experiment that Virginians can’t afford.

Northam vs. Gillespie: Experience and Readiness for Office

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam is pro-choice, supports Obamacare, and thinks the NRA “went off the deep end long ago.” He also thinks Trump is a “narcissistic maniac,” which carries some weight since he is board certified in Psychiatry.

His Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, is pro-life, wants to repeal Obamacare, and is endorsed by the NRA. Though Gillespie likes to distance himself from Trump, he just hired Jack Morgan, Trump’s Southwest Virginia field director, to play a similar role for his campaign. According to Morgan, those who advocate removing Confederate monuments represent a “communist plot to undermine America.“ In a Scaramucci-like tone, Morgan recently ranted, “We have to combat these crazy leftists, some socialists, but a whole lot of communists…who are coming after our country and after our foundation.” So at least by association, Gillespie is firmly in the Trump camp.

We recognize that the facts and positions represented above have probably convinced 95% of the voters which way to go. For those who want to dig a bit deeper beyond a single issue, we present a series of essays that discuss aspects of each candidate. This essay covers experience and readiness for office.

Meet Ed

On his website, Ed Gillespie details “Ed’s Background” as a business owner with multiple distinguished roles serving Republican elected officials, including House Majority Leader Dick Armey and President George W. Bush. Gillespie also served in multiple positions within national and state Republican committees.

Nowhere on this page does it mention that Gillespie made his fortune as a Washington DC lobbyist. According to Wikipedia, between founding Quinn Gillespie & Associates in 2000 and the end of 2002, the firm had received $27.4 million in lobbying fees from companies like Microsoft, Verizon Wireless, and Enron (yes, that Enron). According to multiple sources, Gillespie sold his first firm for $40 million in 2004 and has since then set up his own shop, Ed Gillespie Strategies.

In fact, below is a timeline of Gillespie’s employment record from Open, which you can click to see at full screen. Other than a 2-year stint at the White House in 2007-2008, Gillespie has been lobbying more or less continuously since the mid-90s.

Few lobbyists straddled the line between serving their party and serving their lobbying clients more closely than Gillespie. When President Bush named Gillespie chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2004, watchdog group Public Citizen stated, “President Bush’s decision to name lobbyist Ed Gillespie as chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) will give one of Washington’s prominent power-brokers unrivaled access, influence and opportunity to further the interests of his corporate benefactors and his own lobbying firm.” More to the point, in 2007, the Washingtonian stated that Gillespie “has turned his relationship with President Bush into an $18-million business.

When Gillespie lost his 2014 Senate bid to Senator Mark Warner, he quickly rejoined consulting firm Brunswick Group as senior counselor and continuing lobbying work with his own firm. It seems clear that if he loses the Gubernatorial race, he’ll return to lobbying yet again.

Sending a Lobbyist To Richmond “Would be a Disaster”

There’s nothing illegal about lobbying of course, though it is disturbing that Gillespie fails to include any mention of lobbying on his website. Clearly, he doesn’t see it as a strength.

Interestingly, neither did communist-hating Jack Morgan, back when he campaigned for Corey Stewart, Gillespie’s opponent in the Republican primary. Specifically, in an April 2017 meeting with the Southwest Virginia Republican Women’s Club, Morgan stated, “it would be a shame — that I put [in] all the time I did, and all of you folks put in all the time you did…to send Donald Trump to Washington, D.C., to drain the swamp, and send a lobbyist to Richmond…That would be a disaster.”

Selling access and influence for money, the essence of lobbying, is legal in the private sector but a federal crime once in elected office…which makes you wonder what relevant experience Gillespie can bring to a position as Virginia Governor.

Perhaps Morgan was referring to the fact that selling access and influence for money, the essence of lobbying, is legal in the private sector but a federal crime once in elected office. Perhaps Morgan recognizes that Gillespie has spent most of the last 20 years practicing skills he can’t legally use if elected.

In this regard, it’s also useful to scan Gillespie’s employment timeline above for any mention of work at the state or local level. There’s little, if any, which makes you wonder what relevant experience Gillespie can bring to a position as Virginia Governor. With a one-term limit, we need a Governor who can hit the ground running, not someone who needs to learn on the job.

Meet Ralph

Ralph Northam served in the military from 1984 – 1992, practices as a pediatric neurologist, and has taught medicine and ethics as an assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Among other volunteer activities, for 18 years, Northam has volunteered as medical director for the Edmarc Hospice for Children in Portsmouth, where he cares for terminally ill children.

From 2007 through 2013, Northam served as a state senator, and he was elected Lieutenant Governor in Virginia in 2013. According to the Virginia Constitution, this is not a ceremonial position. Rather,

“According to the Constitution of Virginia, the Lieutenant Governor’s official duties are to serve as President of the Senate and preside over the Senate. In addition to these Constitutional responsibilities, the Code of Virginia provides that the Lieutenant Governor shall serve as a member of several other state boards, commissions and councils, including the Board of Trustees of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and the Center for Rural Virginia; the Board of Directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Virginia Tourism Authority; the Virginia Military Advisory Council, the Commonwealth Preparedness Council and the Council on Virginia’s Future.”

In essence, the Lieutenant Governor position is a training ground for the position of Governor, which is why three of the last eight Lieutenant Governors were elected to that position, most recently Tim Kaine.

To Summarize

Northam has ten years of state legislative experience, four years as the second highest elected executive in the state, and absolutely nothing to hide.

Gillespie has no state level experience, and little other experience he can use as Governor, at least legally. He also has more gaps in his online resume than the Nixon tapes, which really makes you wonder what else he isn’t telling us.

Which is a great lead into our next topic, Ed’s tax plan, which we’ll post next week. Here, Ed isn’t telling us that Kansas tried pretty much the same plan, and it failed miserably. Back in a week.

Free Forum Tackles Local Impact of Continuation, Repeal, or Replacement of Obamacare

September 12, 2017 at 6:30 PM
Historic 1908 Courthouse in Independence Virginia

The repeal or replacement of Obamacare has been a national debate for most of 2017, but the economic impact is typically studied only at the national level. What would happen in the Twin Counties if Obamacare is repealed? How would Twin County Regional Hospital be affected? What would be the impact of any of the proposed Obamacare replacement plans?

These are critical issues that should effect your vote in several upcoming elections, including the November gubernatorial election, where Ralph Northam supports Obamacare while Ed Gillespie advocates for its repeal. In 2018, incumbent Senator Tim Kaine supports Obamacare, while Representative Morgan Griffith has already voted for its repeal. But where would Obamacare’s repeal leave the Twin Counties?

To explore these issues, the Healthcare Information Committee of Southwest Virginia has scheduled an open health care forum to discuss the economic impact of the repeal or replacement of Obamacare. The forum will be held on September 12, 2017, at 6:30 PM at the Historic 1908 Courthouse in Independence, VA. Speakers will include:

  • Christina Dalton, a healthcare economist at Wake Forest University
  • Dale Alward, the new Chief Executive Officer of Twin County Regional Healthcare
  • Robert Lazo, a local family practice physician
  • The forum will be moderated by Twin County Regional Hospital Board Member Doug Vaught

The forum will start with brief statements from all speakers, after which the floor will open for questions. Beyond the issues mentioned above, the panelists are prepared to respond to a number of questions, including:

  • Do we need the Affordable Care Act?
  • Is the individual mandate necessary?
  • Are there alternatives to Obamacare that might work better?
  • What happens to me if I get sick and have no insurance?
  • Can I get covered by Medicaid?
  • What do these programs mean for sustaining our local hospital and medical services in our area?
  • What happens to a community when hospitals close and doctors leave?

Most of the debate on Obamacare has centered along party lines, with little understanding of the local impact of its continuation or repeal. This open forum is your chance to get educated on these issues, and intelligently vote for the candidate that supports your views.

Forum sponsored by the Healthcare Information Committee of SW VA. Members: Nancy Liebrecht, Chair;  Fayma Nye, Treasurer;  Rob Meinecke, Harriett Meinecke, Betty Sutton,  Mary Lily Nuckolls

Warner and Kaine Introduce Bill to reduce Medication Costs for Seniors

According to CBS Newsplex, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are among the Senators who are sponsoring legislation to allow the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to reduce costs for seniors, which would be a significant change to the current Medicare benefit. The bill could provide a way to reduce the rising cost of prescription drugs for seniors and could make a big difference in their choice of paying for food or paying for drugs.

Senator Kaine is up for reelection in 2018. Virginia voters who care about health care (which should be everyone) should remember proposed legislation like this, which improves the lives of our seniors. This is especially true when considering Republican candidates, which as a group are intent on repealing Obamacare, and substituting in programs that will knock 20 million or more voters off of health insurance (according to the Congressional Budget Office), including 62,000 citizens in the Ninth District.

RAM Highlights Dismal Status of US Health Care-Bipartisan Solutions Needed

The picture above, grabbed from the New York Times, highlights the dismal status of health care in the US. It’s a picture of a recent Remote Area Medical (RAM) Expedition held in Wise County Virginia, where over the course of three days, over 2,000 people came for basic health, dental and eye care.

The New York Times quotes Dr. Joseph F. Smiddy, 75, who has volunteered at every RAM clinic in Wise county since 1999, as saying that people’s health was getting worse, not better, “as the region shed well-paying jobs, primarily in coal, and diets and lifestyles deteriorated.”

“We’re sicker here than in Central America,” said Dr. Smiddy, who has volunteered on charity health trips there. “In Central America, they’re eating beans and rice and walking everywhere. They’re not drinking Mountain Dew and eating candy. They’re not having an epidemic of obesity and diabetes and lung cancer.”

Basic statistics support Dr. Smiddy’s claims. According to PBS, in 2012, the US spent more than any other country on health care by far. Yet the US ranks 38th in the world in infant mortality, behind Cuba and Slovakia, and 31rst in life expectancy, behind Costa Rica and one slot ahead of Cuba. We’re not health care experts here at the, but we’re guessing the answer isn’t a house bill that would repeal Obamacare and cost 62,000 citizens in the Ninth District alone their health care insurance.  On the other hand, throwing more money at the problem without a comprehensive plan isn’t the answer either.

It’s accurate and easy to assert that the eating and other lifestyle habits of many people treated at these RAM events are causing their own problems, that they are self-inflicted. But more than any other problem in today’s society, health care is a drag on overall resources. If we don’t address and resolve them straight up, they will only get worse.

What are our politicians doing? According to the Roanoke Times, Ralph Northam, MD, Lt. Governor and gubernatorial candidate of Virginia, Democrat, was there treating patients for the fifth time. At the event, Northam said, “I’m a big believer that health care should be a right, just like education is a right. In the richest country in the world, people should be able to not be one medical issue away from financial demise or death.” It’s really hard to argue against this statement.

The Roanoke paper reported that while Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Terry McAuliffe were there (both Democrats), Morgan Griffiths, the Congressman for the Ninth District that includes Wise County, and a strong advocate of repealing Obamacare was not. Neither was Senator Mitch McConnell from neighboring Kentucky, the Senate Majority Leader and a key figure in the Senate’s attempts to repeal Obamacare. We wish they had stopped by, if only to place a public face on the problem they are actively seeking to worsen.

There are no simple answers. but the binging and purging cycle of health care needs to stop. The US binges when the Democrats control the legislature and attempts to purge when the Republicans are in power. The problem is, basic health care should not be a partisan issue.

As the PBS statistics prove, many other countries spend less and achieve better results. We need to study why and fundamentally change our system. It’s doable if we abandon the partisan dogma and attempt to find real solutions. It’s doable if the parties work together to achieve it.

Law Proposed by Griffin Rated Outrage of the Month by Huffington Post

In an article written by Dr. Michael Carome, an expert on issues of drug and medical device safety and pharmacy compounding, the Huffington Post is calling  Congressman Morgan Griffith’s proposed law, Preserving Patient Access to Compounded Medications Act of 2017, the “outrage of the month.” According to Carome the bill would “would eviscerate the critical patient safeguards established under the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA),” which was enacted after drugs containing fungal meningitis produced by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) reached over 13,500 patients, killing 76. 

Briefly, the DQSA regulates compounding, where pharmacists combine, mix, or alter customized medications, a long-standing and accepted practice. Under the DQSA, compounding pharmacies can choose to register with the FDA, which obligates them to adhere to FDA quality standards but allows them to mass produce compounds. Or, pharmacies can decline to register, and not be subject to FDA standards, but then can only produce compounds when prescribed for specific patients.

Makes sense, right? Large pharmacies that want to operate like drug companies are subject to the same FDA regulations. Smaller pharmacies that want to fill individual prescriptions are not.

These are not abstract fears. In 2017, compounding pharmacy Pharmakon Pharmaceuticals was accused of creating compounds that were either stronger or weaker than advertised. Writes Dr. Terri Lewis in the National Pain Report, “Even after 13 infants, newborns in a neonatal care unit at an Indiana hospital received double-strength sedative from Pharmakon, the defendants continued to ignore safety notices from the safety companies that would tell them that their drugs were too strong.” Ultimately, three infants “received morphine sulfate that was nearly 25 times the strength indicated on the label, resulting in the airlifting of one infant to another hospital.”

Under the DQSA, 52 of 66 pharmacies that voluntarily registered with the FDA had been notified of potential violations by December 2016. Absent the requirements Griffith’s bill seeks to eliminate, few if any of these pharmacies mass producing compounds would have been inspected, and these problems would not have been found.

Despite these legitimate concerns, Griffith’s proposed bill would allow any pharmacy to mass produce compounded sterile drugs for hospitals and doctors’ offices without registering or adapting the FDA standards. According to Carole, the passage of the Griffith bill would” all but guarantee another public health catastrophe like the 2012 NECC-caused fungal meningitis outbreak.”

Why is Congressman Griffith so interested in compounding pharmacies? Clearly, he is well connected with the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists (IACP), a trade group representing more than 4,000 pharmacists, as he delivered the keynote at the COMP Pac Fundraising Dinner in May 2014.  He was also honored at a reception hosted by the COMP PAC & Arnold & Porter Partners PAC in April 2015, where suggested contribution levels ranged from $250 to $2500, with checks payable to Morgan Griffith for Congress.

Clearly, job number 1 for all elected officials is to get re-elected, and we’re not suggested that anything nefarious, or even unusual took place. But Congressman Griffith represents the Ninth District, and each legislator has limited bandwidth to write and argue for legislation. If passed, this bill will make our drugs less safe, and his last bill, fortunately, voted down by the House, would have gutted the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). This bill was formulated on behalf of the COMP PAC, and the CBO bill on behalf of the House Freedom Caucus.

At the same time, Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine came together to introduce a bill that will lower prescription drug costs for nearly 41 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D. Not only does this help citizens in the Ninth District, it helps citizens throughout Virginia and the United States. It’s time for Congressmen Griffith to start introducing bills that do the same.

Forbes Calls House Voting Against Griffith Amendment a “Golden Act of Rationality”

VA9th wasn’t the only site that felt that Congressman Morgan Griffith’s attempt to gut the Congressional Budget Office was a bad idea. In an article entitled, This Was Last Week’s Only Moment Of Bipartisan Sanity In Washington, Forbes stated,

“The one golden nugget of true bipartisanship and rationality amidst all of last week’s extreme and maybe even unprecedented craziness in Washington occurred when the House decisively defeated 116 to 309 a proposal by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) that would have gutted the Congressional Budget Office.

The vote absolutely was bipartisan: less than half (116) of the 240 House Republicans voted for the proposal. Several of the biggest GOP names in federal budgeting, including House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-TN), voted against the Griffith plan.”

The article’s author, Stan Collender, also outed Griffith as a shill, stating, “Griffith was really just a front for the real sponsor of the amendment — the presumed-to-be-very-vindictive House Freedom Caucus — that wanted to stop CBO from making it impossible to enact the Trump/HFC agenda.”

The Republican party has been trying to repeal Obamacare “in the dark,” working late at night with minimal debate and pitiful disclosure of the contents of their legislation. It has been a total mockery of the legislative process intended by our founding fathers. Representative Griffith attempted to further limit insight into the economic impact of Republican proposals by shutting down the group charged with providing such analyses. Even his fellow Republicans were too embarrassed by his efforts to support it.

From our perspective, Representative Griffith should focus his efforts on legislation that serves his constituency, rather than working at the behest of Congressional groups with very different interests.

(Picture courtesy of the Bristol Herald Courier. Here’s an article with BHC’s thoughts on Griffith’s proposed legislation, entitled Griffith’s Use of Convenient Logic on Health Care).