VA cuts program for homeless vets after touting Trump’s commitment

VA cuts program for homeless vets after touting Trump’s commitment

Politico
By Arthur Allen and Lorraine Woellert

Four days after Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin held a big Washington event to tout the Trump administration’s promise to house all homeless vets, the agency did an about-face, telling advocates it was pulling resources from a major housing program.

The VA said it was essentially ending a special $460 million program that has dramatically reduced homelessness among chronically sick and vulnerable veterans. Instead, the money would go to local VA hospitals that can use it as they like, as long as they show evidence of dealing with homelessness.

Anger exploded on a Dec. 1 call that was arranged by Shulkin’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans to explain the move. Advocates for veterans, state officials and even officials from HUD, which co-sponsors the program, attacked the decision, according to five people who were on the call.

The agency’s move came as HUD on Wednesday released its annual survey showing a 1.5 percent increase in veteran homelessness over 2016 — the first rise since 2010. Most of the jump occurred in Los Angeles, where housing costs are skyrocketing.

Advocates said cuts to the program were doubly foolish because the chronically homeless veterans it serves typically cost cities and the health care system hundreds of thousands of dollars for emergency room visits, ambulance runs and jailings that could be avoided if the veterans were reasonably sheltered.

Brothers in arms

Brothers in arms

The Washington Post
By Dan Lamothe

The storage unit’s corrugated metal door slid upward, revealing 100 square feet of mostly empty space. Not very promising, thought Joe Alosi, a businessman who bid on units, sight unseen, when tenants stopped paying the rent. Several plastic bins sat in the middle of the floor, and dust billowed as Alosi peeled off the first lid.

Inside, tightly packed, were rows of envelopes. Alosi opened one, and then another, and then another. The Marine Corps veteran felt a slight chill.

The mostly handwritten letters, on tissue-thin paper, dated to World War II and were penned mostly by the members of a single family — the Eydes of Rockford, Ill. Three brothers were in the military: one in the Marine Corps, one in the Army and one in the Army Air Forces.

There were hundreds of letters, stretching over four years of war and beyond. They captured the horrors of combat, offered warm reminiscences of childhood and exchanges about everything from the movie “Casablanca” to the brothers’ beloved Chicago Cubs. The brothers also used racist and pejorative language, including in their descriptions of Japanese and German forces.

Back at his kitchen table, Alosi, joined by his wife and children, continued to pore over the correspondence. They took turns reading the letters aloud.

Alosi wondered how such an intimate and gripping collection had ended up in a storage locker, whether any of the brothers had children, and if there was anyone left who would care to see them.

“I’ve seen multiple times the way people leave things, you know?” Alosi said. “And when they leave them in a certain way, it’s like they don’t plan on coming back.”

What remained was the story contained in the letters.

Ryan says Republicans to target welfare, Medicare, Medicaid spending in 2018

Ryan says Republicans to target welfare, Medicare, Medicaid spending in 2018

The Washington Post
By Jeff Stein
Image courtesy of Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit.

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. “… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. (Ryan also suggested congressional Republicans were unlikely to try changing Social Security, because the rules of the Senate forbid changes to the program through reconciliation — the procedure the Senate can use to pass legislation with only 50 votes.)

The Republican tax plan puts another knife into American Democracy

The Republican tax plan puts another knife into American Democracy

The Wall Street Journal
By Tom Steyer
Image courtesy of Tom Williams/Zuma Press

After more than three decades as an investor, I fully appreciate that folks on Wall Street don’t have time to follow every detail of Capitol Hill’s policy debates. What matters to the financial industry is the bottom line. So how does the current Republican tax proposal look with that in mind?

On the surface, the GOP plan might seem to offer the kinds of short-term rewards that really resonate. But let’s face it: Republicans’ supposedly pro-business ideas have seemed that way before. While business owners and investors may have made extra returns in the near-term, however, America’s economy ultimately suffered.

Less than a decade ago, after years of dramatic deregulation coupled with revenue-draining tax cuts, the entire U.S. financial system effectively collapsed. It took down with it millions of American consumers, workers, small businesses, retirees and middle-class homeowners.

The country can’t afford this kind of outcome again. That’s why I want to be as straight as possible: Despite what you may believe, the Republican tax plan taking shape is a sham. It will lead to more pain and less prosperity for the vast majority of Americans. Investment professionals have a moral obligation and a personal interest in opposing the bill.

Get ready for Trump’s fireworks

Get ready for Trump’s fireworks

The Washington Post
Opinion by Dana Milbank
Image courtesy of Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

At a Washington cocktail party Wednesday night it seemed everybody was chatting about the latest White House insanity: President Trump’s joking about “Pocahontas” to Native Americans, reviving the Obama “birther” allegation, suggesting the “Access Hollywood” video was fake, retweeting anti-Muslim videos made by British white supremacists.

Most assumed Trump was just being crazy, but Bret Baier, the Fox News host, had a theory: Whenever Trump escalates such antics, he is agitated about news that is about to break. Maybe, Baier speculated, Trump knew something about the Russia probe we didn’t yet know.

Now we do. On Friday morning came former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea, the most ominous development for Trump yet in the Russia investigation. Court documents show that Flynn is cooperating with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and that Flynn’s Russian contacts were done under direction from higher-ups — and there weren’t too many higher than Flynn on the campaign other than Trump himself. The notion that Flynn has the goods on Trump would explain why Trump was reluctant to fire him, tried to get the FBI to stop probing Flynn — and seemed unglued this week as news of Flynn’s cooperation was about to become public.

Though predictions are perilous in the age of Trump, this really could be the beginning of the end of the national horror his tenure has been.

The end of shame

The end of shame

The Washington Post
By Ruth Marcus
Image courtesy of Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed,” Jonathan Swift observed. That was three centuries ago, so our current, degraded condition has deep historical roots. Yet it feels, more and more, that we are experiencing the end of shame.

Our sad national trajectory has been on display recently with two oddly connected stories: Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore and the tax bill. They share a common thread in President Trump, but their significance goes beyond the president. Trump surely helped fuel the end of shame, but just as surely we were already on that degraded path.

No one who has watched Moore expected that reports of how he allegedly preyed on young girls would provoke shame from the egocentric, already discredited judge. Moore has long proved — with his flagrant disregard for constitutional values, his homophobia and racism — that he is impervious to such feelings.

The open question involved Moore’s true-believing supporters and political allies of convenience: At long last, had they any decency? For some, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and most of his colleagues, the answer has been a welcome yes. Others, most prominently Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) and, inevitably, Trump, have failed what should have been an easy test. To conclude that electing an accused child molester to the Senate is preferable to seating a Democrat is the epitome of shamelessness.

If hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, what does it say, exactly, when our most senior public officials feel no such compunction? What does it mean if we lose Swift’s capacity to wonder at the absence of shame?

 

Mueller might be the one who’s ‘draining the swamp’

The Washington Post
By Matt Zapotosky and Tom Hamburger

President Trump famously promised that, if elected president, he would “drain the swamp” — upending the culture in Washington that favors the well-connected.

It is special counsel Robert S. Mueller III whose work seems to be sending shock waves through the capital, by exposing the lucrative work lobbyists from both parties engage in on behalf of foreign interests.

The Mueller probe has already claimed its first K Street casualty: Tony Podesta. His lobbying firm, the Podesta Group, a Washington icon of power and political influence, notified its employees recently that the enterprise is shutting its doors.

Since Mueller was appointed, more people and firms have either filed or amended registrations that make public their work on behalf of foreign interests than had done so over the same time period in each of at least the past 20 years. Lobbyists, lawyers and public relations professionals who work for foreign companies and governments say Mueller’s probe has spooked K Street, and firms are likely to be more careful in their compliance with public disclosure standards.

The Podesta Group was famous for providing access to Washington power, hosting events for a roster of high-profile domestic and international clients who helped make it one of the city’s most successful lobbying firms. Revenue declined after the 2016 election, but the firm remained a powerhouse.

Tony Podesta, 74, the brother of longtime Democratic adviser and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, resigned on the day Mueller announced charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates.