Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Put The Blame Where It Belongs


CBO Says Senate Bill Will Take Insurance From 22 Million


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its analysis of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA) -- the Senate Republican bill to cut taxes for the rich disguised as a health care bill. And it's just as bad as we expected.

The bill would cause about 22 million people to lose their health insurance by 2026 -- raising the number of uninsured to 48 million Americans by that year. While that's a million fewer than the House bill (AHCA), the Senate cuts to Medicaid would continue after 2026 -- and that means the number of uninsured Americans would continue to rise after 2026.

While some of the rise in the uninsured would come from those currently purchasing their own policies or from employers no longer being required to purchase insurance for employees, most of those losing insurance would be people currently getting insurance help through Medicaid. The Medicaid program would be devastated.

The CBO also projected that insurance premiums would rise by 20% in 2018 and another 10% in 2019. After that, the average premium cost would go down. But that is not a cause for celebration. Current policies (under Obamacare) are required to pay about 70% of medical costs. But in 2020, they expect policies to cover only about 58% of costs -- meaning those policies will have fewer benefits and higher deductibles.

This means those buying individual plans might pay less for premiums, but if they get sick, they'll pay a lot more out of their own pockets for medical care. And it probably won't just be those who buy individual policies. We can expect a lot of employers to start buying plans for their employees that have fewer benefits and much higher deductibles.

The BCRA will do what it was intended to do -- give the richest Americans a huge tax cut. But to do that, the Senate Republicans will throw the poor, the working class, and even many in the middle class under the bus. It's a truly bad plan, and we can only hope it's defeated.

Entrances

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Approval Of Same-Sex Marriage Continues To Grow







I just thought you might be interested in these charts by the Pew Research Center on approval of same-sex marriages in the United States. They come from a survey done between June 8th and 18th of a random national sample of 2,504 adults, with a 2.3 point margin of error.

It shows that approval is not just growing among the public at large, but is also growing among all groups in this country (even groups that still disapprove).

Using The "Safety Net"

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

A Good Court Decision (And A Potentially Bad One)

(Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court by Alex Wong / Getty Images is from NBC News.)

The United States Supreme Court struck another blow for equality in it's decision striking down an Arkansas law yesterday. The state law had denied lesbian couples to have both of their names on their baby's birth certificate. The state law had said that only the actual mother would have her name on the certificate -- since the certificate was to show actual parentage.

The problem with the law was that married heterosexual couples had both the parent's name on a baby's birth certificate (even if the father was not the birth father of the baby). This meant Arkansas was treating same-sex couples differently than they were treating opposite-sex couples. The Supreme Court said that violated the Constitution, and that all married couples must be treated the same under the law.

That was a victory for equality in this country, and one unlikely to be overturned in the future since it was a 6 to 3 decision (with only Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito disagreeing with the decision).

But the Court also created the possibility of a decision upholding discrimination against the LGBT community in the future. They agreed to hear a case in their next term to determine whether a business can refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds. The case concerns a Denver baker who refused to make or sell cakes for same-sex couples. He claimed it violated both his religious freedom and his artistic freedom.

Lower courts had ruled he cannot discriminate against same-sex couples, even in the name of religion, since he was operating a business open to the public. How will the Supreme Court rule? It could go either way on this divided court. We know that three justices (Gorsuch, Thomas, Alito) think it's just fine to discriminate against the LGBT community (as long as the discrimination is disguised as religion). The deciding votes will come from Kennedy and Roberts, and it's anyone's guess as to how they will vote.

Both of these are important cases, since same-sex marriages are on the rise in the United States. The bottom chart shows that. It is from a recent Gallup Poll -- done between June 20th (2016) and June 19th (2017) of a random national sample of 352,851 adults (including 12,832 members of the LGBT community), with a margin of error of only 1 point.


Trumpcare Unveiled

Political Cartoon is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Russia Attacked The U.S. In 2016 - Do Republicans Care ?


All of our intelligence agencies agree -- Russia used computer hacking to attack the United States during the 2016 electoral campaign. This attack endangered the security and the electoral process of the United States. One would think that all Americans would be angered, and want to take action to punish Russia and make sure it doesn't happen again in the future. Unfortunately, that is not true.

The Republican Party, the party that loves to claim to be the "patriotic" party, don't seem to be worried about the attack -- and many of them still refuse to believe it even happened (in spite of what our intelligence agencies say). As the poll above shows, while 62% of all Americans (including 62% of Independents and 76% of Democrats) know that the attack happened, only 42% of Republicans say that (while fully 50% of Republican say it didn't happen).

That's troubling, because if you don't believe the truth about those attacks, then you won't want any action taken to punish the offender (Russia) to prevent it from happening again. And it's even worse in the White House, where the Trump administration continues to doubt the attack and wants to remove sanctions against Russia. It's almost as bad in the GOP-controlled Congress, where new sanctions against Russia remain mired down in the House of Representatives. It's almost as if the Republicans don't care that Russia attacked this country.

The chart was made from a recent CBS News Poll -- done between June 15th and 18th of a random national sample of 1,117 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.

Here is Dan Rather's take on the situation:

The United States was attacked. It was attacked by a hostile foreign power who wished to harm our democracy. It was a sneak attack and its damage we are only starting to understand. 
What Russia did in the 2016 elections should have every patriotic American angry and determined to rally to the defense of the nation. The Russian attack is back to being the talk of Washington thanks to a blockbuster report in the Washington Post which laid bare the response of the Obama Administration. The facts detailed in that important piece of journalism have raised a series of recriminations among the political chattering class over whether President Obama acted forcefully enough. That is an important debate, and one that will likely be pored over by historians in the future. 
But while we shouldn't shy away from that discussion, we should also recognize that the threat posed by Russia has not dissipated. If anything it has only increased as Vladimir Putin has seen the success of his efforts to create political chaos in the United States. 
President Trump has to this point shown no interest in taking this threat seriously. If anything, he hasn't demonstrated that he even understands the nature of the threat. He famously has been flippant about whether he even believed Russia was involved - that was until he could tweet out attacks on Obama's handling of the attack yesterday. How convenient. But that doesn't excuse him, our current Commander and Chief, of his responsibility to protect our Republic. 
What hasn't gotten enough attention in the Post report, in my opinion, is how the Republicans in Congress reacted back in 2016. 
(From the Washington Post article)
"the (Obama) White House turned to Congress for help, hoping that a bipartisan appeal to states would be more effective...(but) the meeting devolved into a partisan squabble. 'The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting."
In 1947, Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg famously said, "we must stop partisan politics at the water's edge.” And by this he meant in foreign policy and issues of national security. Well in a digital world, there is no water's edge. But there certainly is politics. Criticize the response of the Obama Administration all you want. But we cannot let political point scoring distract us from the current threat to national security. 
The safety and security of this nation is now in the hands of President Trump and his allies in Congress. Will they take this Russia threat seriously? Or will they continue to play politics?
"When it comes to keeping America safe and strong, when it comes to keeping America free, there should be no Republicans or Democrats, only patriotic Americans working together." That was President Ronald Reagan at the height of the Cold War. What would he say about the game the GOP is playing today?

Get Used To It ?

Political Cartoon is by Mike Stanfill at ragingpencils.com.

Never In Our Lifetime


Monday, June 26, 2017

The Fraud-In-Chief


More Americans Believe Comey Than Believe Trump


Rumor has it that this poll is driving Donald Trump to fits of rage. I believe it. His narcissistic personality demands that he be loved and trusted -- and the American public doesn't do either.

The fact is that more Americans believe James Comey than believe Donald Trump (45% to 22%). They think Trump is lying about trying to influence Comey to stop the Russian hacking investigation (or demanding loyalty from him).

They also don't believe Trump when he says the Russians didn't interfere in the 2016 election. A 53% majority believes they did interfere.


These charts are from a new NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll -- done between June 17th and 20th of a random national sample of 900 adults, with a margin of error of 3.3 points.

The Sound Of Silence

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Democrats Should Stop Attacking Nancy Pelosi

(This caricature of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is by DonkeyHotey.)

During the Georgia special election, Republicans ran an ad saying the Democratic candidate supported the liberal Nancy Pelosi and her California friends. It was a silly ad that Republicans loved, Democrats hated, and Independents ignored (because they were voting for a House member from Georgia -- not Pelosi).

But some Democrats are now trying to say that the Georgia special election was lost because Pelosi is the House Minority Leader -- and as long as she remains in that position, Democrats will continue to lose elections.

It's hogwash! Georgia's 6th congressional district is a very red district, and Democrats never really had a good chance to win that district. Those in that district were going to elect a Republican to represent them (no matter how bad that Republican was or how good the Democratic opponent was -- or whoever was the House Minority Leader). If you want to blame Pelosi for that loss, then you also must give her credit for the Democrats doing better there than in the last four decades. But neither is true. A safe Republican district elected another Republican, and that's all that happened.

If Pelosi was to be replaced as Minority Leader, how long would it take for the Republicans to start demonizing her replacement (no matter who that replacement was)? Probably less than 24 hours. That's just what Republicans do. They try to demonize their opponents and other Democrats (especially Democratic leaders). Are we going to replace every Democratic leader that is demonized by the right-wing Republicans? If so, then we would be continually replacing our leaders, and our leadership would look like a revolving door.

Democrats need to stop attacking our own party leaders. When we do so, we are just playing into the Republican's hands, and doing their job for them. Nancy Pelosi is an honest, experienced, and competent legislator and party leader -- and we should be grateful to have her leadership. She is also a good progressive, but a realistic one. She knows what can be accomplished and what can't -- and she gets done what she can right now, while never giving up on what else can be accomplished in the future. That's not a bad thing -- but good politics.

Most of the attacks on Pelosi (just like the Democrats attacking Hillary Clinton) are coming from party extremists on the left. They want to replace Pelosi (and other party leaders) with people who will move the party far to the left. While I wouldn't mind seeing this whole country move toward leftist politics, I think moving the Democratic Party to an extreme leftist party will just ensure defeat after defeat -- because most American voters, like it or not, are moderates. They want change, but they want that change to be done in moderate steps.

Some will point to the national polls to say Pelosi is viewed unfavorably by the public. The truth is that ALL congressional leaders of both political parties are viewed unfavorably by the public (see the chart below). That's because the public views Congress unfavorably as a whole. They see Congress as thinking it's more important to argue ideology than to compromise for the good of the country -- and they don't like it. But changing any of the congressional leaders won't improve the public's view of Congress (or either party in Congress). That can only be improved by congressional representatives willing to compromise for the good of the country -- and that's not likely to happen soon.

If you, as a Democrat, feel the need to vilify any politician, then direct that at Republican politicians. They have earned it -- Pelosi hasn't.


Chart is made from information in a new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between June 18th and 20th of a random national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,277 registered voters), with a 3 point margin of error.

Opinion Not Wanted

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

A Prime Example Of Trump's Ignorance And Incompetence


Donald Trump recently held one of his campaign-style rallies -- this time in Iowa. He would rather do this than meet with the media. The media would ask him some hard questions, but the supporters at these rallies (carefully screened) will cheer any silly thing Trump says (whether it is true or not).

A good example of this, highlighting Trump's ignorance and incompetence, is a promise he made to his supporters at the Iowa rally. He promised to pass a law to keep immigrants from receiving any government benefits for five years after they arrive in the U.S. -- and the largely ignorant crowd cheered him (thinking that was a great idea).

Well, it was a good idea -- so good that it was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. That's right -- it has been the law for more than two decades now.

How is it that Trump did not know that? Shouldn't he know things like that before making promises to the American people? Some of you may say that Trump can't know everything. But while it's true that no president can know everything, it's also true that he has the entire government to call on to fill him in on things he is interested in, or things he would like to accomplish. All he had to do was ask those in his cabinet, or better yet, send one of his aides to the Library of Congress to research the matter, or even simpler, just google it.

But he did none of those things. That's because he's just a narcissistic blowhard who doesn't care about the truth. All he cares about is throwing red meat to his ignorant base (even if that "red meat" is already a law).

Make You Feel Better ?

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Devious Republican Effort To Destroy Medicaid

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (pictured) has written an excellent expose on the devious and underhanded way the congressional Republicans are trying to destroy Medicaid. He writes:

Bad enough that the Republican Senate bill would repeal much of the Affordable Care Act. 
Even worse, it unravels the Medicaid Act of 1965 – which, even before Obamacare, provided health insurance to millions of poor households and elderly.
It’s done with a sleight-of-hand intended to elude not only the public but also the Congressional Budget Office. 
Here’s how the Senate Republican bill does it. The bill sets a per-person cap on Medicaid spending in each state. That cap looks innocent enough because it rises every year with inflation. 
But there’s a catch. Starting 8 years from now, in 2025, the Senate bill switches its measure of inflation – from how rapidly medical costs are rising, to how rapidly overall costs in the economy are rising.
Yet medical costs are rising faster than overall costs. They’ll almost surely continue to do so – as America’s elderly population grows, and as new medical devices, technologies, and drugs prolong life.
Which means that after 2025, Medicaid will cover less and less of the costs of health care for the poor and elderly. 
Over time, that gap becomes huge. The nonpartisan Urban Institute estimates that just between 2025 and 2035, about $467 billion less will be spent on Medicaid than would be spent than if Medicaid funding were to keep up with the expected rise in medical costs.
So millions of Americans will lose the Medicaid coverage they would have received under the 1965 Medicaid act. Over the long term, Medicaid will unravel. 
Will anyone in future years know Medicaid’s unraveling began with this Senate Republican bill ostensibly designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act? Probably not. The unraveling will occur gradually. 
Will future voters hold Republicans responsible? Again, unlikely. The effects of the unraveling won’t become noticeable until most current Republican senators are long past reelection. 
Does anyone now know this time bomb is buried in this bill? 
It doesn’t seem so. McConnell won’t even hold hearings on it. 
Next week the Congressional Budget Office will publish its analysis of the bill. CBO reports on major bills like this are widely disseminated in the media. The CBO’s belated conclusion that the House’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would cause 23 million Americans to lose their health care prompted even Donald Trump to call it “mean, mean, mean.”
But because the CBO’s estimates of the consequences of bills are typically limited to 10 years (in this case, 2018 to 2028), the CBO’s analysis of the Senate Republican bill will dramatically underestimate how many people will be knocked off Medicaid over the long term.
Which is exactly what Mitch McConnell has planned. This way, the public won’t be tipped off to the Medicaid unraveling hidden inside the bill. 
For years, Republicans have been looking for ways to undermine America’s three core social insurance programs – Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. The three constitute the major legacies of the Democrats, of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. All continue to be immensely popular. 
Now, McConnell and his Senate Republican colleagues think they’ve found a way to unravel Medicaid without anyone noticing.
Don’t be fooled. Spread the word.

Whitewash

Political Cartoon is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

GOP Pledge


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Progress Is Made By Asking "Why"


Half Of Americans Support A Withdrawal From Afghanistan



The longest war in U.S. history drags on -- the war in Afghanistan. And there's no evidence that it will get any better anytime soon, or ever end. Donald Trump seems to have given up on it, and obviously has no ideas on how to win that war. We know this because he has turned the execution of the war to the Pentagon generals, including how many troops should be sent there. We can expect those generals to once again start ramping up the number of soldiers committed to that war -- in the vain hope that will do some good.

The sad fact is that, while our military is very good at fighting a conventional war, they are not good at trying to force another nation to accept the kind of government our political leaders want that nation to have. That has become very clear. We should have learned that lesson in Vietnam, but we didn't.Now we are stuck in an endless war that's accomplishing nothing.

And the American people are starting to realize that. A plurality of 37% think we are losing the Afghan War, while only 15% think we are winning it -- and the remaining people don't have a clue about it. Currently, about half of the country (49%) would support a plan to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan, while only 23% would oppose such a plan. I have to agree with the 49% -- it's time to get all of our troops out of that ridiculous war.

The charts above use information in a recent Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between June 18th and 20th of a random national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,277 registered voters), with a 3 point margin of error.

The Comparison

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

The American Public Wants Economic Sanctions On Russia (But Doesn't Think Donald Trump Does)




It is undeniable that Russia tried to interfere with our electoral process in 2016, and that this interference was directed by Putin himself. This was nothing less than an attack on our democracy, and some kind of response is necessary to punish Russia for that.

The Senate has done something. By an overwhelming vote, they decided to put new economic sanctions on Russia. That sanctions bill is now in the House of Representatives, but sadly, the Trump administration is working hard to defeat those new sanctions (or at least change the bill to give Trump the authority to remove Russian sanctions whenever he wishes). This is not a surprise, since Trump tried to remove the current sanctions against Russia almost immediately after taking office.

What does the American public think? As the charts above show, a majority of registered voters (62%) agrees with the Senate that new sanctions should be imposed against Russia. But a plurality (43%) think Trump will try to remove the sanctions against Russia, and a majority (51%) think it would be wrong for him to do that.

What's interesting is that a majority (69%) of Republicans want the new sanctions -- and while a small plurality (37%) don't think Trump will try to remove sanctions (which is denying reality, since he's already tried to do that), another small plurality (36%) think it would be wrong for Trump to do that. Trump's desire to remove sanctions against Russia not only goes against what most Americans think should happen, but it also goes against what a substantial portion of Republicans want.

The charts above were made using information in a new Morning Consult / Politico Poll -- done between June 15th and 19th of a random national sample of 2,051 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.

Help For The Rich

Political Cartoon is by Darrin Bell at darrinbell.com.

No President Has Ever Lied As Much As Donald Trump


The chart above is from the New York Times. It shows the days in which Donald Trump has told a lie since taking office. They separate deliberate lies from "public falsehoods" (which were not true, but may not have been deliberate). I'm not sure there should be a difference, since the president has access to the knowledge acquired by all of the U.S. government -- and should know whether what he is saying (or tweeting) is true or not. And personally, I believe it is inexcusable for any president to lie to the citizens of this country.

It turns out that, by the NY Times count, Trump told a lie every day from the day he was sworn in until March 1st (about 40 days), and since then, has lied on at least 74 of 113 days. How can anyone now be expected to believe anything that Trump says?

Done In The Dark

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.

AARP Speaks Out Against Senate Version Of Trumpcare

(Cartoon image is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.)

Last May, the AARP spoke out against the House's version of health care reform (Trumpcare). Now the Republicans in the Senate have come up with their own version of Trumpcare, and it's just as bad (if not worse). And the AARP, representing million of seniors, doesn't like it at all. Here is what they had to say:

“This new Senate bill was crafted in secrecy behind closed doors without a single hearing or open debate—and it shows. The Senate bill would hit millions of Americans with higher costs and result in less coverage for them. AARP is adamantly opposed to the Age Tax, which would allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more for coverage than everyone else while reducing tax credits that help make insurance more affordable.
“AARP is also deeply concerned that the Senate bill cuts Medicaid funding that would strip health coverage from millions of low-income and vulnerable Americans who depend on the coverage, including 17 million poor seniors and children and adults with disabilities. The proposed Medicaid cuts would leave millions, including our most vulnerable seniors, at risk of losing the care they need and erode seniors’ ability to live in their homes and communities.
“The Senate bill also cuts funding for Medicare which weakens the programs ability to pay benefits and leaves the door wide open to benefit cuts and Medicare vouchers. AARP has long opposed proposals that cut benefits or weaken Medicare.
“As we did with all 435 Members of the House of Representatives, AARP will also hold all 100 Senators accountable for their votes on this harmful health care bill. Our members care deeply about their health care and have told us repeatedly that they want to know where their elected officials stand. We strongly urge the Senate to reject this bill.”

Getting Screwed

Political Cartoon is by Paul Fell at paulfellcartoons.com.

Science Vs. Faith


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Privatization


GOP Supports Trump - But No One Else Does


This chart is from the new NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll -- done between June 17th and 20th of a random national sample of 900 adults (including 765 registered voters) with a 3.27 point margin of error.

It shows that Trump still has a negative net job approval rating of 15 points with the general public (40% approving and 55% disapproving). He has the approval of those in his own party (82%), but only 35% among Independents and 6% among Democrats.

This won't matter to Republicans in overwhelmingly safe districts in 2018. But it should worry the Republicans in the districts where they won by only a single digit (the purple districts). It means they won't be helped by clinging to the coattails of Trump. In fact, being closely allied with Trump would hurt them with Independents and Democrats (who together make up the majority in purple districts).

A Plot To Harm

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Americans Don't Agree With GOP About Medicaid


The Republicans in the Senate are still scheduled to vote on their trillion dollar tax cut for the rich next week, which they have cleverly disguised as a health care bill. But calling the bill a health care bill doesn't make it one -- especially since it would result in millions fewer having health insurance, tens of thousands more dying from lack of insurance, and higher insurance premiums for the consumers and businesses that can still afford to buy it. It is a tax cut bill for the rich that stomps all over millions of Americans to pay for itself.

One of the ways it provides to pay for those tax cuts for the rich is to severely cut funding for Medicaid. The House's tax cut bill would cut Medicaid by $834 billion. The Senate version, to be voted on next week, would make far deeper cuts (although the biggest cuts wouldn't come until after the next election).

I think the Republicans thought it would be easy to pick on Medicaid, and no one would care. After all, isn't Medicaid just for the poor (who have no political power, and can easily be demonized)? Well, no. Medicaid does cover many poor people, but it also does more. It covers children, people with disabilities, and those in nursing homes -- altogether about 20% of the U.S. population. If an American is not on Medicaid, then he/she probably knows someone who is helped by Medicaid.

The Republicans have misjudged the American people. Rather than be opposed to Medicaid, about 74% actually support the program (including 61% of Republicans, 76% of Independents, and 84% of Democrats). People also think that Medicaid works well for those who need it. About 61% say that (including 52% of Republicans, 62% of Independents, and 68% of Democrats) -- and this is true in both the states that expanded Medicaid and the states that didn't.

The congressional Republicans may claim they are "fixing" our health care system by passing this tax cut bill, but they need to be careful. Most Americans don't see it that way. They don't think you can fix a health care system by denying health care to millions of citizens -- and they are right. If the GOP insists on passing this bill, it could easily come back to bite them on the butt in November of 2018.

These charts are from the Kaiser Family Foundation Poll -- the newest one being done between June 14th and 19th of a random national sample of 1,208 adults, with a 3 point margin of error.




The Scythe Is A Giveaway

Political Cartoon is by Tim Eagan at cagle.com.

Russian Hacking Was Widespread - Why Does Trump Deny It

(The cartoon image above is by Lalo Alcaraz.)

The truth is that the Russians attacked the United States electoral system in 2016. And it was not just a few hackers on their own -- but a concerted effort by the Russian government under the direction of Putin himself. This is fact, and our government knows it (both our intelligence agencies and our Congress). That's why the Senate voted nearly unanimously (only 2 senators voted "no") to put new economic sanctions on Russia.

The bill for the new sanctions in now in the House. But guess who opposes it, and is working hard to defeat it. DONALD TRUMP! The Trump administration opposes a part of the sanctions bill that says the president could not alter the sanctions without first notifying Congress. In short, he wants the ability to remove those sanctions without telling Congress (or anyone else). We already know that he tried to remove the current sanctions against Russia immediately after taking office, but was stopped by Congress.

Why is Trump doing this? Does he not care about the security of our democracy? Or does he owe the Russian government for their efforts to get him elected? There's no "smoking gun" evidence that Trump colluded with the Russian government to subvert our electoral process -- YET. But Trump's actions (calling the hacking a "fake story", trying to unilaterally remove sanctions, etc.) certainly makes it look like there may be a quid pro quo involved (an agreement between Trump and Putin).

The hacking was actually more widespread than most people know. This is part of an article in Time magazine by Massimo Calabresi on how serious the Russian hacking was:

The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers, current and former officials tell TIME.
In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents.
The fact that private data was stolen from states is separately providing investigators a previously unreported line of inquiry in the probes into Russian attempts to influence the election. In Illinois, more than 90% of the nearly 90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers, and a quarter contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, according to Ken Menzel, the General Counsel of the State Board of Elections.
Congressional investigators are probing whether any of this stolen private information made its way to the Trump campaign, two sources familiar with the investigations tell TIME. . . .
The House and Senate Intelligence committees held hearings on June 22 to highlight the ongoing vulnerability of the U.S. election systems. “I’m deeply concerned,” said North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, that “we could be here in two or four years talking about a much worse crisis.”
Cyber-security officials testifying at the Senate hearing acknowledged for the first time the extent of the Russian effort to interfere with the election. Twenty-one states saw such intrusions last year, a senior official from the Department of Homeland Security, Jeanette Manfra, said. None of the intrusions affected the vote count itself, all the officials testified.
That has not reassured some Hill leaders. “There’s no evidence they were able to affect the counting within the machines,” says the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California. But, he added, “the effect on the election is quite a different matter.”
The Russian efforts against state and local databases were so widespread that top Obama administration cyber-security officials assumed that by Election Day Moscow’s agents had probed all 50 states. “At first it was one state, then three, then five, then a dozen,” says Anthony Ferrante, a former FBI cybersecurity official and member of the White House team charged with preparedness and response to the cyber intrusion. At that point, says Michael Daniel, who led the White House effort to secure the vote against the Russian intrusions, “We had to assume that they actually tried to at least rattle the doorknobs on all 50, and we just happened to find them in a few of them."
Many hackers, including state-sponsored ones, use automated programs to target hundreds or even thousands of computers to check for vulnerabilities. But confirming intrusions is hard. As far as officials have been able to determine, the number of actual successful intrusions, where Russian agents gained sufficient access to attempt to alter, delete or download any information, was “less than a dozen,” current and former officials say. But that wasn’t the only worry.
“In addition to the threat to the vote we were also very concerned about the public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system,” says Ferrante.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any laws were broken in relation to the Russian attack. The Congressional intelligence probes also seek to determine the nature and scope of the Russian espionage operation in order to protect future elections.
“The integrity of the entire system is in question,” says Bahar, “So you need the system to push back and find out what happened and why, so it never happens again.”