Thursday, December 8, 2016

GOP Health Care Flim-Flam

Josh Marshall explains how and why Republican "Repeal and Replace (some day)" rhetoric is a scam on Talking Points Memo.

Millions of people's lives and livelihoods are on the line. So it's not funny. But if there weren't such dire real world consequences, Paul Ryan's current flimflam would be straight up hilarious. Repealing Obamacare has immediate real world consequences. It will trigger providers to leave the system. It will deprive between 20 and 30 million people of the health care coverage they now have. (Here are the details of who loses their coverage, down to the state level.)

Ryan has promised that no one will be worse off after Republicans replace Obamacare. But the only reason they are talking about delaying replacing Obamacare for two or three years or more is because even after talking about it for five plus years, they have no idea what to replace it with. They appear to want to go back to the pre-Obamacare status quo. But they don't think that is politically viable.
Just like you can't jump off a building with no plan on where you're going to land (not if you want a good outcome), "repeal and delay" is a farce which is being gobbled up by the Washington press corps like no one's business. Sad! as Donald Trump would say. It makes zero sense except as a plan to put off the blame for the human carnage until after Ryan has bagged his tax cut.
Let's repeat this again, there is zero reason to wait a day to replace Obamacare with whatever Republicans want to replace it with — no policy or legislative logic whatsoever. The only logic is kicking the can down the road, because after five years Republicans have no idea how to accomplish what Obamacare accomplishes. So they have no replacement. What they do know is that by repealing Obamacare they can lock in a huge tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. So if you're one of those 20 or 30 million Americans about to lose their coverage, all is not lost, Ryan got his top supporters a really big tax cut in exchange for the coverage you got under Obamacare.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

On Bullsh*t as a Political Strategy

The startling revelation by Trump surrogate and CNN commentator Scottie Nell Hughes that "There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, of facts" has made the rounds by now. Discussing the President-elect's claim that he won the popular vote over Hillary Clinton when the three million votes for her by illegal aliens are subtracted from her total, Hughes explains (sort of):

“Mr. Trump’s tweet, amongst a certain crowd, a large — a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — in his — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies, and there’s no facts to back it up.”

Remarkably, Hughes was seconded by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowsky:

“You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally. The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes — when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar — you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

Senior advisor and latest Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was even more blunt. “He’s the president-elect, so that’s presidential behavior." He won, so none of this factual accuracy stuff matters. If three surrogates back Trump's claim, we can presumably conclude this is now policy.

Meanwhile, back in the reality-based community, rated Trump's claim "Pants on Fire." The Donald has been nothing if not consistent since announcing his candidacy for President, racking up 70% Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire ratings (339 public statements rated). Politifact reports that this level of dishonesty is unprecedented in any political figure they have ever covered.

We really should have seen this coming (not to brag, but some of us did). As Maya Angelou said, "when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."  In Trump's best-selling book "The Art of the Deal" he gave us fair warning in describing his favorite sales technique--"truthful hyperbole."

"I play to people's fantasies. It is an innocent form of exaggeration--and a very effective form of promotion." I get the feeling that Donald Trump's "truthful hyperbole" is "innocent" for him; the rest of us, not so much.

The saddest part of truthiness as a political ethos is we have seen how this movie ends. Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Ron Suskind wrote about something similar at work in the Bush administration.

"The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Suskind's Bush adminstration aide was later identified as none other than Karl Rove.

Sooner or later in the office of the President of the United States, truthiness collides with objective reality (you know, the real kind). George W. Bush left office in January 2009 with two failed wars, a crashed economy, an exploding budget deficit and an approval rating in the low 20's amid widespread doubts about basic competence.

At the time, much was written about Bush's, ah, creative relationship with factual accuracy. However, as Politifact notes, Trump makes W. look like Abraham Lincoln. Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Governing is Hard

After the initial euphoria of unexpectedly gaining control in Washington, Republicans are beginning to realize governing is much harder than voting No, then going on Fox News and blaming Obama. Josh Marshall explains on Talking Points Memo.

We are only a few weeks into the booyah! boasting phase of the Trump GOP Era. But we are already seeing a central theme emerging, especially on health care policy. Both on repealing Obamacare and phasing out Medicare, Republicans are now realizing they have to ask Democrats for help, despite the fact that they control every branch of the federal government.

It's important to understand why this is happening. One key reason is that on both Obamacare and Medicare, the GOP - especially the House GOP - is the dog who caught the car. What do they do now? Paul Ryan, whose genial demeanor and packaging conceals a political radical on fiscal policy, social insurance and almost everything else tied to money, risk and financial security, got House Republicans to vote for Medicare Phaseout for five years straight. But it was an easy vote since nothing would ever come of it.

Republican Senators are now telling pretty much everyone who will listen that they don't want to get dragged into phasing out Medicare this year. Some of that is the complexity of the legislative calendar. You can only push through so much at a time. But don't believe the hype. They know that killing Medicare is toxic politically. Unlike their GOP brethren in the House, they have to run in districts (i.e., states) that were drawn in the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries (with a handful of exceptions). Not big data driven maps gerrymandered in 2010. To paraphrase Augustine, they want Movement Conservative purity, but just not yet.
They're getting a similar message on Obamacare. A couple weeks ago, Paul Ryan was boasting that he might take down Obamacare and Medicare in the days just after the inauguration, in one combined action. Just a few days ago, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that Repeal and Replace could be set aside in favor of Repeal and We'll Look Into It. But Senate Republicans are saying Obamacare repeal could be a years' long process.
The key political reality is that Senate Republicans are spooked by going after both Obamacare and Medicare, though to much different extents. One big reason they're hesitant is that they believe they'll have to do it on more or less straight party line votes, with no Democratic cover. A number of Senate Republicans have also made clear they do not foresee flat repeal in any case - rather something between reforming and repealing and then replacing with something that is significantly similar to Obamacare.
On the other side of the equation, there will certainly be Republicans in the House and the Senate who will resist any move to compromise on Obamacare and Medicare, particularly Obamacare. Where do you figure Ted Cruz will be if a mushy Obamacare semi-repeal comes through the Senate? There's no question that his mix of extremism and opportunism will make him jump for the chance at being the leader of the Obamacare-Pure Republicans. With possible defections on the right, that's another reason why Republicans will need some Democratic votes. But the biggest reason they will want Democratic votes is that people who face real elections won't want to face the electorate with that much health care carnage without bipartisan cover.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trump Supporters Got Played

Paul Waldman writes what I have been thinking in the Plum line blog in The Washington Post.

Imagine you’re one of those folks who went to Trump rallies and thrilled to his promises to take America back from the establishment, who felt your heart stir as he promised to torture prisoners, who got your “Trump That Bitch” T-shirt, who was overjoyed to finally have a candidate who tells it like it is. What are you thinking as you watch this?
If you have any sense, you’re coming to the realization that it was all a scam. You got played. While you were chanting “Lock her up!” he was laughing at you for being so gullible. While you were dreaming about how you’d have an advocate in the Oval Office, he was dreaming about how he could use it to make himself richer. He hasn’t even taken office yet and everything he told you is already being revealed as a lie.
During the campaign, Trump made two kinds of promises to those white working class voters. One was very practical, focused on economics. In coal country, he said he’d bring back all the coal jobs that have been lost to cheap natural gas (even as he promotes more fracking of natural gas; figure that one out). In the industrial Midwest, he said he’d bring back all the labor-intensive factory jobs that were mostly lost to automation, not trade deals. These promises were utterly ludicrous, but most of the target voters seemed not to care.
The second kind of promise was emotional and expressive. It was about turning back the clock to a time when immigrants hadn’t come to your town, when women weren’t so uppity, when you could say whatever you wanted and you didn’t feel like the culture and the economy were leaving you behind. So Trump said he’d toss Hillary Clinton in jail, force everyone to say “Merry Christmas” again, and sue those dastardly liberal news organizations into submission.
And of course, there were promises — like building a wall on the southern border and making Mexico pay for it just so they know who’s boss — that claimed to serve a practical purpose but also had an important expressive purpose. And now one by one Trump is casting them all off.
So what are we left with? What remains is Trump’s erratic whims, his boundless greed, and the core of Republican policies Congress will pursue, which are most definitely not geared toward the interests of working class whites. He can gut environmental regulations, but that doesn’t mean millions of people are going to head back to the coal mines — it was market forces more than anything else that led to coal’s decline. He can renegotiate trade deals, but that doesn’t mean that the labor-intensive factory jobs are coming back. And by the way, the high wages, good benefits, and job security those jobs used to offer? That was thanks to labor unions, which Republicans are now going to try to destroy once and for all.