Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Americans were perilously close to losing their right to health care when the Supreme Court offered a reprieve. Few were more grateful than the conservative politicians who had been railing against the Affordable Care Act while praying they would not have to face the political consequences of its collapse.

For progressives, guaranteed health coverage is a political triumph, the greatest addition to the social safety net in decades. And Obamacare would not have happened without the man it was named after.

All this makes the current left-wing revolt against President Obama so hard to fathom as well as so unfair. Many on the left are now branding Obama as a toady of big business interests uninterested in the struggles of working Americans. Their stated reason? His support of a trade agreement among Pacific Rim countries.

This is the president who led the country out of the most frightening economic crisis since the Great Depression. He saved the American auto industry — and by extension the industrial Midwest — from collapse. And he did it against an impenetrable wall of right-wing opposition. For several terrifying months, a government bailout of Detroit was by no means a certainty.

But that was five minutes ago. What has he done for us lately?

Obama’s political skills are notoriously weak. He has not been a great reacher-outer to egos on either the left or the right. Wish it were otherwise, but backslapping is never going to be part of the Obama package.

Foes of a Trans-Pacific Partnership argue that it would ignore environmental and labor standards. Actually, it would impose rules that did not exist before. They say it would let companies sue governments. Actually, they already can (though it almost never happens).

And they portray this accord as hastening the loss of American blue-collar jobs to low-wage countries, such as China. Actually, the purpose is to help its 12 members compete with China.

Fast-track authority to negotiate this deal was eventually passed, thanks to Republican votes. But the mutiny against Obama by his erstwhile allies has left him a diminished presence on the world stage.

No magic wand will bring back the 1960s, when American factories could employ huge numbers at handsome wages. Global competition and computerized manufacturing are here to stay.

The fairest way to address today’s reality is to have the economic winners help those not winning. That means programs preparing Americans for the good jobs there are. It means enhanced economic security for those experiencing job loss or stagnant wages (Obamacare again).

Does anyone — other than Obama’s sternest Republican critics — recall his success in raising taxes on the well to do? Under Obama, the average federal tax rate on households in the top 1 percent has gone up over 6 percentage points. The rich are paying higher taxes on investment income and for Medicare. And the top income tax rate is now 39.6 percent, up from 35 percent.

Yet some on the left now engage in the kind of Obama conspiracy-against-us talk that has characterized the right.

“The government doesn’t want you to read this massive new trade agreement,” liberal crusader Sen. Elizabeth Warren writes in her blog. “It’s top secret.”

Oh? Every word will be revealed for congressional approval or rejection.

Compare that with the recent statement by a blond yakker out of the Fox News factory that Obamacare had been “negotiated in secret.” The Affordable Care Act had fewer secrets than Kim Kardashian.

Obama now looks gaunter and grayer than the youthful senator elected in 2008. That tends to happen to presidents after years of political battle. For Obama, though, the road to the finish line has been especially lonely.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. 

Photo: oregonmildep via Flickr

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.