Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ready for the GOP Recession ?

In January, the White House set aggressive goals of 4% annual US economic growth. This growth would supposedly be a result of large federal tax cuts, fewer regulations, and a huge infrastructure plan.

Economists in the new administration appear to be using mind-altering substances. To put this into perspective, the average growth for the 2010-2016 recovery was 2.1% annually. Rather than almost doubling the Obama recovery growth rate, I believe that proposed GOP policies will actually cut current growth. In fact, new GOP rules will likely lead to a new recession.

The economy runs in cycles. Periods of business growth are followed by contraction- as inevitably as night follows day. The average post-WWII recovery has lasted 58 months. At 91 months, the current recovery has lasted considerably longer than most. This recovery may soon collapse simply due to old age. But many proposed Republican policies will certainly hasten the process.

Messing with Healthcare. Healthcare is a huge sector of our economy. In 2015, health expenditures were $ 3.2 trillion, or 17.8% of GDP. Current GOP plans to muck-up Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare will wreak havoc on more than a sixth of US economic activity.

Certainly, fewer people will have insurance. Hospitals will face massive lay-offs and closures. Insurance will cost more to those who can still afford it, sucking money out of other sectors of the economy. As a result of only Obamacare repeal, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that 1.2 million US jobs will be lost.

And Republican schemes to privatize/couponize Medicare and slash Medicaid with inflict even more economic damage. Republican healthcare plans will be dramatic and effective job killers.

Anti-Labor Policies. GOP politicians are doing what they love best- taking money out of the hands of lower-paid workers. Already, the White House has announced that they will not defend (in court) Obama's executive order making as many as 12.5 million workers eligible for overtime pay.

With the GOP lock on Washington, the likelihood of a long-overdue increase in the national minimum wage is slim-to-none.

GOP politicians continue their efforts to lower American wages through their unrelenting war on unions. Corporate-shill Republicans have introduced a union-busting national Right-to-Freeload bill in the House. One-trick-pony, Scott Walker, has discussed a national version of Wisconsin's infamous Act 10 with the White House.

Every one of these actions will lower the take-home pay of those most likely to spend the money. Every one of these actions will efficiently put brakes on the economy by drastically curtailing consumer spending.

Xenophobic policies. The new mass round-ups and deportations of undocumented workers are exacting a serious human toll. But these actions will also have a huge negative impact on US economic growth. A recent study estimated that undocumented workers contribute 3% of private sector GDP and would have added nearly $5 trillion in economic growth over the next ten years.

The Muslim ban is also having unintended economic consequences. Scientific research will suffer because Muslim students and technologists cannot continue their work. Non-Muslim students and scientists will reconsider coming to the US, thanks to our current xenophobic government. We will lose our scientific dominance and the accompanying high-pay, high-tech jobs.

Our $2.1 trillion travel industry is already starting to suffer as people from all over the world are reconsidering their US visits. Travel booking sites report flights to the US down as much as 17% since 45's Muslim-banning executive order. Fully one in nine US jobs depend on the travel industry.

Other Job Killing Policies. In addition to the three major job-killing initiatives, the GOP has many other dandy ideas. House pols are pushing for a benign-sounding "border adjustment tax". These new tariffs would ignite a trade war, gutting US exports and inflating the cost of many needed imported goods. We already tried this idea during the Great Depression. It didn't work so well.

The fast-growing solar industry employs over 260,000 Americans. Wind employs another 88,000. The strange anti-science beliefs of Republican politicians will harm US leadership in renewable energy. A party that deletes all mention of global warming from government websites will have no problem in cutting energy research and in ending tax incentives for wind and solar power. 

GOP politicians are trying to re-mold America into their own ideological Fantasyland. Screwing-up the healthcare industry, adopting xenophobia as governmental policy, and a continuing effort to depress workers' wages will all have a hugely negative effect on US economic growth. We are entering a new recession of the Republicans' own making.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Dog is a Republican

I lowered my IQ by 5 points today. A high school classmate and Facebook friend posted some stupid country song called "I Think My Dog is a Democrat". The artist's name escapes me, but he is that doughy white guy who wears a cowboy hat and a flannel shirt, and sings with a southern twang.

The song made the rounds last March, being publicized by alt-right, alt-fact media like Breitbart and Hannity. However, because my personal Venn diagram doesn't overlap with either the world of country music or the propaganda world of the crazy right, I just now became aware of it.

The "singer" starts out braying that he feeds his dog and takes him to the vet. Somehow, because the dog gets a legally-mandated amount of care, that makes his pet a Democrat. The lyrics then work-in some important GOP themes, including that Hillary is a female dog, the Dem-o-crats are taking our guns, there is widespread liberal voter fraud, and of course-Benghazi TM
. He finally brings it on home, bellowing: "Ah thank ma dawg's a spread-the-way-ulth, gubment hay-ulth, flay-bitten De-mo-crat."

Unlike the dog in the insipid country song, I think that my dog, Bella, pictured above, might actually be a Republican.

First of all, Bella is not very smart. She is not even smart for a dog. She runs to the door every time a bell rings on TV. When I take her outside on the coldest of nights, she loses focus on her one job. She stares off into the polar gale as my core temperature steadily drops to the danger point.

Bella has all of the environmental ethics of a Republican. She craps all over the yard with no concern for others. She expects someone else to clean up her mess.

Bella also has the economic ethics of a Republican. When we feed the animals, my dog feels entitled to scarf-down all of the food. She leaves little or nothing for the cat. She got hers, screw Mr. Tickle-Puff.

Bella could be considered a neo-con Republican. She is constantly getting into fights with the neighbor dogs, actually enjoying a state of perpetual warfare.

Republicans live in fear of just about everything: big cities, non-Anglo-Saxons, feminists, terrorists, ebola, etc. So does Bella. She freaks out over plaster yard-statues of deer. If a car alarm goes-off anywhere within the Germantown city limits, she has conniptions. She cowers at the sound of distant thunder.

Bella hates any other animals that appear near her territory. She was here first, by God. No other dog should be allowed to set foot on HER soil!

Bella is not interested in facts. When I try to explain something to her, she just looks at me with the same blank, uncomprehending gaze common to Trump rally crowds.

Yes, if my dog was allowed to vote, I am afraid that she would join the millions of American humans of comparable intellect. She would vote Republican. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Upcoming State Election

It is easy to get distracted by the slow-motion GOP train wreck in Washington. However, we also need to keep our focus on what is happening in Wisconsin. This April, we vote for our State Superintendent of Public Instruction. But first, we have a February 21 state-wide primary to winnow the three-person field to two.

Tony Evers has held the position since 2009. He is one of the few state office holders independent of the Walker/Vos/Fitzgerald crime syndicate. He has been a strong advocate of public schools. I won't go into detail on Evers' long and distinguished service. But I encourage you to read his short editorial in today's Cap Times.

We know what we are getting with Evers. But what about the other two candidates, Lowell Holtz and John Humphries? It is difficult to sort through the edu-speak word salad from these candidates to define their governing philosophies. However, it is clear that both challengers are advocates of school privatization and expanded taxpayer funding of religious schools.

Both candidates would drop Common Core State Standards, because of Obama something, something... Holtz does not say what standards he would replace them with. Probably, each and every district would have to ineptly reinvent the wheel. Humphries would spend years and tons of taxpayer money to develop new, statewide Wisconsin standards- standards that would likely end-up similar to Common Core.

From a look at his campaign website, it apparent that Lowell Holtz is an extreme candidate. He has been endorsed by some of the looniest characters in Madison, including Representatives Andre Jacque, Bob "Gunnin'"Gannon, Tea Party Dan Knodl, and Janel Brandtjen. He is endorsed by former Representative, one-time State Superintendent candidate, and frequent national embarrassment, Don Pridemore.

If you like Betsy DeVos, you would love Holtz. Holtz wasted no time in posting a story on his website celebrating DeVos's confirmation. In describing the least qualified Secretary of Education ever, Holtz said, "Never before has the future of education been placed in the hands of a stronger advocate for personal freedom and school choice..." In a FB post last night, Holtz wrote, "Congratulations to Secretary DeVos on her confirmation by the US Senate today! Her intellect and leadership will serve the expansion and longevity of school choice well in Wisconsin and nationwide." (underline mine)

In an oh-so-clever wink to the extreme base, Holtz calls his website "".

John Humphries is also attempting to garner the conservative vote, although his pitch is a little more subtle. He wants to change the state constitution and weaken the roll of State Superintendent. He would create more bureaucracy through formation of an "Education Accountability Board", whose chair would be named by the governor.

Humphries supports the notorious Darling-Kooyenga plan to gradually privatize Milwaukee schools. He also wants to increase the dollars that taxpayers ship-off to religious and for-profit schools, at the expense of public schools.

According to a September FB entry, Humphries received campaign training by far-right American Majority, a group that organized an "I Stand With Walker" rally in February, 2011. He publicly supports Act 10. He issued a statement supporting the confirmation of spectacularly unqualified Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, saying the confirmation is a "positive development for the future of America's children."

Tony Evers has shown himself an independent voice that has deflected the worst
public school schemes of Scott Walker and his state legislature . He will provide an effective buffer from school privatization efforts by the new Secretary of Education, DeVos. Evers' two opponents will not. I encourage everyone to vote for Tony Evers in both the February 21 primary and the April 4 general election.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

No Mandate For The Unpopular GOP Agenda

By any measure, the GOP cannot claim a strong mandate for the extremist agenda they are trying to foist on America. Trump lost the popular vote by 2.8 million. The only way that the GOP has a majority in the House is by a gerrymandering scheme so abusive that, despite Hillary's commanding popular vote win, she carried only 205 House districts to Trump's 230.

And the Senate composition indicates no strong mandate, either. If one assigns state population to the party of their Senators (and splits the state population for split-party states), Democratic Senators represent a huge 178.3 million people, or 55.3% of Americans. Despite this big majority, the Democratic Caucus only constitutes 48% of the Senate.

In contrast, the 52 Senate Republicans represent only 144.1 million people, or 44.7% of Americans. However, they claim a Senate majority, largely due to GOP strength in many of our least populous states.

OK, so the Republicans represent only a minority of Americans. How are they governing? Are they listening to the people? Does their agenda at least reflect the wishes of the majority?

Few issues divide the two parties more than the Right to Choose. For years, radical Republican men have ignored the people to wage their War on Women. The unpopularity of their stance is illustrated by a January Quinnipiac poll which asked: "If you knew that federal government funding to Planned Parenthood was being used only for non-abortion health issues such as breast cancer screening, would you still favor cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood?" The public opposes a funding cut by an overwhelming 80% to 12% margin.

In the same poll, Americans support the Roe v. Wade decision by 70% to 26%. Republicans can hardly say they have a mandate to legislate governmental control of reproduction.

How about other issues? Most Democratic office holders are against the Citizens United decision which exposed our elections to unlimited, anonymous, and uncontrolled dark money. Republicans usually support Citizens United and frequently block legislative attempts to limit the worst abuses. In a September 2015 Bloomburg poll, Americans think that Citizens United should be overturned by a lopsided 87-17% margin.

How do Americans feel about Medicare and Social Security? Congressional Republicans (led by Paul Ryan) are determined to change Medicare into a scheme in which seniors would receive a premium support (discount coupons) to buy private health insurance. The most recent poll on this idea was conducted by Kaiser in 2014. Paul Ryan's plot is pretty unpopular, supported by only 26% of respondents. In contrast, 66% of the public thinks that we should keep the current Medicare system.

And Social Security is just as popular as Medicare. While the GOP wants to cut benefits and raise the retirement age, Democrats want to defend and strengthen the program. A 2014 Pew Research poll reports that 67% of Americans want no cuts to Social Security. Only 31% feel that some future cuts will be needed.

Climate change denial is almost a requirement for a Republican office holder. Trump's cabinet and Congress are well-stocked with anti-science hacks who do not believe that the earth is warming and actively fight efforts to fix the problem. Yet, according to a 2016 Gallup poll, fully 65% of Americans agree with the science that global warming is caused by human activities.

And Trump's useless and expensive border wall? It is not supported by Americans, either. A September CNN poll found that 58% of Americans oppose building the wall vs 41% who actually want it.

Due to an unfortunate convergence of electoral law vagaries and aggressive gerrymandering, the GOP has found itself with a solid grip on the US government. They achieved this power without the support of a majority of voters. However, Washington GOP politicians are acting as though they have a huge mandate to impose radical change. But on issue after issue, Republicans are out-of-sync with the rest of the country. They are truly a minority party pushing a minority agenda on the rest of us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's Choose Our Battles Wisely

Let's face it. We lost. Republicans have a firm grip on Washington. They are able to do almost anything that they want. They are able to pass most of their polluting, anti-science, anti-middle-class, social-Darwinist agenda. We have only a limited ability to fight back.

However, we do have some weapons in our arsenal. On a range of important issues, including opposition to Citizens United, support for Social Security and Medicare, public education, worker's rights, and right-to-choose, we stand with the majority of Americans. Public opinion is on our side.

We have the ability to overturn the worst legislation through the courts. During the past eight years, Republicans unleashed a torrent of legal challenges to President Obama's legislative achievements and executive orders. We should return the favor.

And Republican Congressional majorities are not overwhelming. A flip of three GOP votes in the Senate or 23 votes in the House could defeat some of the most regressive legislation. Congressional Democrats must stick together and need to appeal to swing-district Republicans on critical votes.

However, we can't fight everything. We can't dissipate our energies on the small stuff, the temporary stuff, or the unpopular stuff. Our people only have limited time and energy. The American people only have a limited capacity for outrage. Let's pick our battles. As Democratic strategist James Carville says, “if you’re against everything; then you are for nothing. You’ve got to pick and say, ‘This is what [Trump] is’ and drive that home. "

If we fight on every issue, we will end up winning on very few. But what should be our main priorities in repelling the GOP agenda over the next four years? What issues are worth our time, our activism, and our energy? I suggest three major areas below:

Laws and policies designed to lock-in GOP majorities. As soon as Wisconsin Republicans gained total power in 2011, they passed a string of laws designed to lock-in that power. They attacked groups like lawyers and unions that heavily contribute to Democrats. They passed laws designed to make it harder for Democratic-leaning groups like the poor and students to vote. They passed the most grossly gerrymandered map in the country. They tailored political contribution laws to favor their party.

We must resist similar efforts to lock-in conservative power in Washington. If we ever hope to reestablish a progressive national government, we must fight GOP efforts to tilt the electoral playing field. We cannot allow Republicans to weaken Democratic groups, such as unions. We need to push back on biased political contribution laws. We must resist attempts to impose voter suppression schemes like national photo-ID. Trump has already set the stage for such suppression with his bizarre claims of widespread voter fraud.

Laws and actions that will have a long-term effect on the US. Many Republican plans can be overturned as soon as progressives regain power. Executive orders can be overturned. Unqualified cabinet secretaries will be tossed-out. Alliances can be repaired. Prudent climate policies can be re-instituted. We need to focus on the policies that will affect our country for decades or more.

For example, we need to push back on Trump's illegitimate Supreme Court nominee. We cannot allow him to fill what rightfully should be Merrick Garland's seat with a conservative hack who would legislate a regressive agenda for decades.

It took the US 222 years to enact a program ensuring universal access to medical care. If we allow repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it may be another 200 years before Americans can consider healthcare as a right. Saving Obamacare is a fight worth having-a fight that should unify all progressives.

Laws that end popular programs. On issue after issue, the Republican Party is on the wrong side of public opinion. As progressives, we need to defend our most popular programs and policies. For example, we must resist efforts to end reproductive freedom. We cannot allow big government to dictate healthcare choices. We must continue reimbursing women's clinics for services.

Paul Ryan and his droogs have long lusted over privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a discount coupon scheme. This strikes at the very heart of progressive values. We must be seen as the defenders of these successful and popular programs.

While the Trump circus continues to distract most Americans, Republican politicians are beginning to impose their destructive and regressive policies on the country. With a limited arsenal of weapons, we cannot fight everything. We should carefully choose our most meaningful fights and pour everything into winning them. We should resist efforts to tilt the electoral playing field. We should resist efforts to lock-in long term regressive policies. We must defend popular progressive policies such as reproductive choice, Medicare, and Social Security.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

If You Break It, You Own It

People will be beautifully covered !

Congressional Republicans and their leader, Donald Trump, are hell-bent on repealing the Affordable Care Act. Repeal is one of the few consistent messages voiced by GOP over the past seven years. It is one of the few ideological tenets holding their party together. They now have the votes. Repeal will be done. Goodbye to Obamacare.

However, what comes after Repeal is unknown. Republican politicians have painted themselves into a corner by their irrational hatred of everything Obama. They have taken steps for Repeal with no Replacement in sight. Last week, we discussed the slim prospects of House and Senate leadership corralling enough Republican votes alone to pass any sort of Replacement. There are too many anti-government nihilists in the GOP to pass any kind of meaningful Replacement program.

Under almost any scenario, some Democratic votes would be needed to pass a Replacement plan. But, that simply ain't happening. Democrats are not disposed to rescue their right-wing colleagues from their self-imposed and avoidable disaster.

On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report on the horrendous human and financial costs of ACA Repeal. Repeal will deny coverage to 18 million additional people in the first year, ballooning to 32 million more uninsured people by 2026. Premium costs will skyrocket over the current projections, shooting up 25% more the first year and doubling current projections by 2026.

This certainly doesn't sound like the rosy plan promised us by Donald Trump. He has variously called his secret scheme a "great" plan, a "terrific" plan, and an "unbelievable" plan. In a Sunday interview, he said that his plan would provide "insurance for everybody". He said the people "will be beautifully covered !

It also doesn't sound like the rosy plan promised us by Paul Ryan. He has pledged that "no one will be worse-off." During a CNN Town Hall last week, Ryan promised that his replacement will be "something better."

Seeing the slow but inexorable healthcare disaster heading for their party, Republicans are desperate to get Democrats on-board with their awful replacement scheme. They would love to be able to share the blame for huge numbers of new uninsured, ruinous budget deficits, and ballooning premiums. Or in the likely event that no Replacement is actually passed, they would like to be able to accuse "those Democrats" of blocking reform.

In one of his infamous Tweet-storms, Trump pleaded: "It is time for Republicans & Democrats to get together and come up with a healthcare plan that really works- much less expensive and FAR BETTER!"

In a Waukesha Town Hall meeting last Saturday, Congressman Sensenbrenner voiced a similar plea, "Republicans cannot pass a replacement for the ACA on a party line vote, nor do we want to...We do not want it to be a partisan issue." Too bad that Sensenbrenner and his droogs made it a partisan issue long ago by fierce GOP obstruction during initial passage of the law, seven years of single-minded anti-ACA braying, and over 60 party-line votes for repeal.

Democratic Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii said that his Republican colleagues have approached him to help bail them out-"I think they want a life line because they don't have a plan." Sen. Schatz continued, "They want to be able to claim this is part of a good faith negotiation, but it's simply not.They have no idea what comes next so they want some bipartisan cover for their nonsense behavior."

Republican politicians have rejected our current successful ACA system because of their blind hatred of President Obama. They are calling on Democrats to help bail them out of the mess that they have created for purely partisan reasons. They have broken the system all by themselves. They now own it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sensenbrenner Will Raise Taxes on 22,000 Constituents

A few days ago, I received another taxpayer-funded, glossy propaganda letter from Jim Sensenbrenner. As so many other times over the last seven years, our Congressman promised to repeal healthcare for thousands of his constituents.

Sensenbrenner has been an enemy of healthcare for his constituents since the beginning. Just last May, he penned an opinion piece in the Journal Sentinel called "The Bitter Fruits of Obamacare." At a town-hall several years ago, a friend of ours tried to ask him a question, saying,"You've voted over 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act and...". Sensenbrenner immediately interrupted, blurting out, "And I would vote another 50 times to repeal it !"

I do not call Sensenbrenner's planned actions "repealing Obamacare" or even "repealing the Affordable Care Act". I prefer "repealing heathcare". Without a comparable and coherent plan to replace current law, the Republican Congress, including Sensenbrenner, will indeed repeal healthcare for millions of Americans.

Sensenbrenner's taxpayer-funded website lists no fewer than 29 anti-healthcare press releases and opinion pieces from his taxpayer-funded office. He has called the legislation that has greatly lowered the uninsured rate in his district a "disaster", "unconstitutional", "bad tasting medicine", and a "train-wreck".

With the ascension of popular-vote loser, Donald Trump to the Presidency, Congressional Republicans like Sensenbrenner have been given the opportunity they have been salivating over for years. They will be able to end healthcare for millions of Americans. This includes repealing healthcare for 25,900 of Ol' Jim's very own constituents who buy their insurance over the Exchange.

Based on estimates of about 85% of Exchange enrollees being eligible for Premium Tax Credits, Jim Sensenbrenner, by his partisan vote for Repeal, will raise taxes on over 22,000 of his District 5 constituents. I know. I am one of them. Based on my 2014 & 2015 returns, my own Federal taxes will be increased by over $10,700 per year.

Often bragging about never raising taxes, Sensenbrenner will vote to eliminate the Premium Tax Credits for more than 190,000 Wisconsin residents. He will burden low and middle-income residents of our state with the loss of $759,000,000/year in Premium Tax Credits.

Republicans are committed to ending the Affordable Care Act. They are committed to ending healthcare for millions of Americans. This bizarre one-track focus is one of the few unifying issues for today's GOP. Ending the program is easy. It will be a promise kept.

However, with all of their Replacement talk, Republicans take us for fools. There is little chance that a comprehensive and meaningful Replacement healthcare plan can be passed by the GOP alone. With 218 votes needed for anything to pass the House, Republicans can only afford to lose 23 of their members. There is no way that so large a group can be convinced to pass any rational healthcare plan. After all, many of the most rabid of GOP politicians believe that the government should be not be involved in healthcare at all.

The odds that Senate Republicans will pass substantive new health reform is even lower. Even if Majority Leader McConnell "goes nuclear" and overturns the 60-vote filibuster threshold, he has only a very slim majority. At 52-48, Republicans can only lose three votes in passing any post-nuclear bill. And based on the political rancor of the last eight years, they will get no help from Democrats.

Repeal will happen. I would place money on it. However, no meaningful Replacement is in sight. But, maybe I am worried over nothing. After all, President-elect Trump has variously promised, a "great" plan, a "terrific" plan, and an "unbelievable" plan. Paul Ryan promised us that Repeal will "leave no one worse off". Should we take them at their word? Probably not.

The way I see it, there will be a definite Repeal, but no substantive Replacement. There will be a large increase in the number of uninsured Americans. There will be a large increase in the number of people who cannot buy insurance at any price. There will be a large tax increase for those of us who count on tax credits to defray the cost of insurance. District 5 voters will have Jim Sensenbrenner to thank.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What Can We Do ?

The Republican Congress is poised to enact the most granny-starving, hate-filled, rights-restricting agenda that this country has ever seen. With G.O.P. control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, what can a patriotic American do to stop this assault?

Perhaps we should take a page from the old Tea-Party playbook. In 2008, Democrats held the Oval Office, the Senate, and the House-a similar position of power in which today's Republicans find themselves. Within weeks of Obama's first inauguration, countless rallies and marches were held, protesting something or other. Members of Congress got an earful at town hall meetings. A perfectly good historical flag was usurped as the movement's symbol.

Over time, the Tea Party was able to intimidate their representatives or, in many cases, to replace them. Demands for ideological purity and punishment for any compromise shifted many surviving politicians (and our entire country) far to the right. The new, more radical, G.O.P. gained first the House, then the Senate, and now the White House.

Just as Republicans found their way out of the wilderness through smart tactics, organization, and mobilization, Democrats can, too. A good guide for progressive activism in the Age of Trump was compiled by a group of former Democratic Congressional staffers. This document is called Indivisible-A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. It focuses on how to effectively put pressure on your members of Congress to influence their policy positions. 

Indivisible discusses tactics such as public events, phone calls, and media opinion pieces. However, the authors put much of their emphasis on personal contact with your politicians. Town hall meetings, in which constituents can directly speak to their elected officials, are seen as especially effective in communicating your opinions.

Typical of Indivisible's practical town hall advice: "Your questions should be sharp and fact-based, ideally including information on the (Member of Congress’s) record, votes they’ve taken, or statements they’ve made. Thematically, they should focus on a limited number of issues to maximize impact. Prepare 5-10 of these questions and hand them out to your group ahead of the meeting."

W.O.W. Counties are represented in the House by Paul Ryan (southern Waukesha), Jim Sensenbrenner (Northern Waukesha, Washington), and Glen Grothman (Ozaukee). Granted, it will be difficult to directly influence this extremist gang. However, maybe the worst of their nefarious plans can be stalled.

Just as the GOP Congress was shamed today into reversing course on weakening the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, public pressure can have an effect on their other policies. For example, maybe they can be shamed into introducing an actual replacement for the Affordable Care Act at the same time that they kill it. With enough push-back, maybe they will drop the crazy idea of turning Medicare into a discount coupon scheme.

How do we find-out about town hall meetings in our districts? Remember-if no one shows up except supporters, our Congressmen will assume that everyone agrees with their actions.

I am not sure whether Glen Grothman holds any town hall meetings at all. His official website offers no clue. He appears to be frightened of his constituents and must be approached in other ways, such as office visits, sit-ins, and mass calls. His Washington office can be reached at (202) 225-2476.

Paul Ryan calls his town halls his "Mobile Office". According to his official website, "Information about the 2017 Mobile Office Tour and schedule will be available on this web page in Spring 2017."

So Paul Ryan will not have any town hall meetings until Spring- well after he has passed much of his cynical granny-starving agenda. However, we should plan to show-up at each and every one that he finally does hold. After all, video of Paul Ryan facing an irate crowd of seniors in his own district can only help to save Medicare and Social Security nationally.

In refreshing contrast, Jim Sensenbrenner holds frequent town halls throughout his district. His website lists the current schedule of 45 sessions, to be held from January 14 through March 19. I personally have attended many past town halls and find them both entertaining and enlightening.

There are many productive things that you can do to let your Republican Congress people know that you do not agree with their agenda of tax cuts for the rich, gruel for seniors, restricted rights for women, and government-sponsored hate for minorities. Much practical advice is contained in the document, Indivisible. Although progressives are currently out-of-power, we can take a lesson from the 2008 Tea Party. There are concrete actions we can take to blunt the very worst of the Trump/GOP agenda.