by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
143 million Americans are affected by a security breach which happened in a company that is paid to take care of our credit information—Equifax.
Exactly what the hackers stole, as usual, we don’t know. All we know is they had access to a lot of credit information. This includes names, dates of birth, and addresses—and possibly Social Security numbers. They also had credit card numbers on over 200,000 customers. They also had personal information on Americans who were disputing their credit information—more than 182,000 Americans.
In a New York Times article, Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst at Gartner, said, “On a scale from 1 to 10 in the terms of risk to consumers, this is a 10.”
For the most part, when I’ve heard about security breaches in the past, I’ve kinda blown them off. Then, I remember hearing about the Target supermarket store security breach several years ago, in which a hacker stole tons of credit card information. I shop there. What are the chances that someone in a basement in Bismarck or London or Berlin or Moscow is staring at my Visa credit card information right now? I don’t know. I have no idea.
I also have no idea how to find out if my accounts have been personally breached. The only way that you know for sure is when you find out somebody is using your information to buy stuff… with your credit cards! I do know that sitting on the street corner and crying is not going to fix the problem.
When Americans have problems that are too big for themselves, we should be able to turn to the government for help. Stop laughing, I’m serious. As far as I know, Congress is doing nothing to hold corporations accountable for security breaches like this.
Last year, Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, decided to silently protest what was happening to the black community. It took several weeks before anybody noticed that he was sitting during the national anthem. Colin’s teammate Eric Reid, after the killing of Alton Sterling by police in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, decided that he needed to do something also. The two men sat down and discussed the issue for several hours. They also included another NFL player who was also a former Green Beret. They decided that they should kneel during the national anthem. Kneeling would show the appropriate amount of respect as well as protest police brutality and a criminal justice system that seems to stack the deck against minorities.
But in late September, President Donald Trump, at an Alabama campaign rally, decided to openly attack NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. Donald Trump is always great at playing to his audience. His poll numbers are in the tank. He has made no progress on many of his signature issues. He continues to fail at healthcare reform and repealing Obamacare. Several months ago, he said he wanted to pass tax reform (which is code for tax cuts for the rich). This proposal has gone nowhere.
So, if Trump is talking to a predominantly white audience in Huntsville, Alabama what should he talk about? Maybe he could bring up the ongoing investigation into the White House connection with Russia? Maybe he could bring up how he has no stomach for long and detailed policy meetings? Or, he can attack “rich” but “ungrateful” black football players, who are making money for playing a game, who are not being “patriotic enough.” The audience and the media ate it up.
Repeal and Replace
Donald Trump understands the media and public opinion probably as well as, if not better than, any other president in modern history. Near the end of September, the new “repeal and replace” healthcare bill landed in the Senate (this is also called the Cassidy-Graham bill).
Cassidy-Graham is more of the same: elimination of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, destruction of the marketplace subsidies, deep and ongoing cuts to Medicare—which would affect seniors, Americans with disabilities, and needy children—and elimination of protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
The bill injects more of the language that Republicans love to hear—block grants. They love to go out on TV and talk about giving millions of dollars to Texas or West Virginia. Because to the public that sounds like a lot of money. Yet when you’re talking about a state, or when you’re talking about healthcare, millions of dollars is nothing. After all, we spend a little over $10,000 per person on health care in the United States. That’s over $3.4 trillion in 2016.
The politics in the Senate have not changed. In order for a bill to pass Congress without any Democratic support, the bill could only stand to lose three of the 52 Republicans in the Senate (remember that Vice President Pence can vote to break a tie). Susan Collins (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), and Rand Paul (R-KY) all publicly announced that they would not support this bill. Yet, leave it the politicians to try to change a no into a yes.
Senator Cassidy went back to the drawing board and tried divvying up larger chunks of these block grants to Alaska (to bribe Lisa Murkowski) and Maine (to buy Collins’s vote). I wondered why Republican Senator Capito didn’t whine so that our state could possibly get more block grant money.
Fortunately, even with bribes offered to senators like Collins and Murkowski, and even with the plan to take lots of money from “blue” (Democratic) states and transfer it to Republican ones, the plan could not generate even 50 votes in the Republican-dominated Senate. So Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave up and pulled the bill from consideration.
Let’s ignore all the particulars of this hideous bill and look at the politics. Once again, Democrats were gearing up to try to stop this bill. How do you stop Democrats from marching and letter-writing against a terrible healthcare bill? The best way is to distract everyone with something else, something equally ridiculously outrageous. That is why Donald Trump brought up the NFL and Colin Kaepernick and Steph Curry. This is why I’ve taken a new stance with Donald Trump. I’m going to react to what he does and not to what he says. This is my new status quo.
Hurricanes have devastated South Texas, southwestern Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and parts of Alabama. I’m afraid that the nation might have run out of empathy for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. These are American territories which have been devastated just as badly as South Texas, if not more so. South Texas has Houston—and having a major city and oil industry is a powerful attractor of money and resources for clean-up. Florida has tourists, beaches, oranges—and Mar-a-Lago—the last especially is a strong pull for federal money.
But the U.S. Virgin Islands has mostly beaches and resorts, but isn’t terribly exclusive. So does Puerto Rico—which also suffered from financial crisis and a mediocre infrastructure that needed repair and upgrading even before the hurricane, along with brown-skinned Spanish-speaking people—none of which makes a case for emergency funding with this administration.
So please—find it in your heart to help as many Americans as you can.