Browsing the archives for the Obama Administration category.


Republicans Scramble for a Plan. And a Clue.

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Bad Hair, Health Care, Obama Administration, Republican Party

The original plan to kill Obamacare was “repeal and delay,” meaning Congress would pass a repeal bill that wouldn’t go into effect for at least a couple of years, thereby putting pressure on Democrats to help come up with a replacement. But that appears to be abandoned.

According to this article by Peter Sullivan at The Hill, the new plan is to go ahead and repeal Obamacare — there will be a repeal bill on Trump’s desk by February 20, they say — and then Trump will magically make all the rough transitional thingies go away by executive orders.

Seriously, that’s the plan.

The Feb. 20 target was put forward by incoming House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R-Tenn.), said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), leaving a meeting with House Republicans and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Wednesday.

Pence said Trump plans to take executive actions to start unwinding ObamaCare on day one, but did not get into specifics.

“It will be an orderly transition to something better … using executive authority to ensure it’s an orderly transition,” Pence told reporters. “We’re working now on a series of executive orders that will enable that orderly transition to take place even as Congress appropriately debates alternatives to and replacements for ObamaCare.”

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), an early Trump supporter, added that, “The president in his first day in office is going to do some level of executive orders related to ObamaCare.”

But Collins said there were “no details whatsoever” on the orders discussed in the meeting.

They have no idea what they’re going to do. They’re about to hit the Put Up or Shut Up Wall, and they’re flailing.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) tweeted this right after that same meeting.

They don’t have a plan. How many years have they been hollering about replacing Obamacare? I’m not good with big numbers.

The February 20 deadline is not completely impossible. Dylan Matthews at Vox explains how congressional Republicans have already paved the way for doing away with most of the ACA through reconciliation, which will allow them to pass the repeal with a simple majority vote in the Senate. For budget reasons they would have to retain the ACA’s cuts to Medicare providers, but everything else could go immediately. See also Sarah Kliff.

Lauren Fox at Talking Points Memo has a different take. I’m not sure if she’s talking about the same meeting, but it seems not everyone is on board.

In a closed-door meeting in the House basement Wednesday with the whip team, a Republican rank-and-file member rose to convey his deep fear that Republicans were making a big mistake by repealing the Affordable Care Act without any concrete plan to replace it with.

According to one source in the room, the member rose and got the room’s attention.

“You lose all leverage once you repeal this thing. There will be people on the left who will never help you replace it and there will be people on the right who aren’t going to help you either,” the member said. “We will own this thing and there will be consequences.”

(Consequences? What is this thing, consequences? We Republicans do not know this word.)

The House isn’t the only place where members are sounding the alarm. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), whose own state expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, said earlier this week that Republicans will be making a mistake if they repeal the Affordable Care Act without replacing it at the same time.

The concern is that by moving rapidly to repeal President Obama’s signature accomplishment, Democrats may never work with Republicans on a replacement. That could leave Republicans with two options, either they could change Senate rules and jam through their replacement or they will never get one.

If they go the delay route, there are still those alien consequences things to deal with. Josh Marshall wrote,

The AMA, which has been rather comically pro-Trump to date, came out today and told Republicans that they shouldn’t repeal Obamacare without a clear replacement. Notably, even two of the most conservative health care economists at AEI, came out yesterday and said that ‘repeal and delay’ would be a disaster. The truth is that “repeal and delay” is the policy equivalent of taking off from JFK to Heathrow with 2,000 miles worth of gas and saying you’re going to figure it out en route. No one who knows anything about health care economics, even people who are staunch free marketeers and hate Obamacare, think that makes any sense.

Note that recent polls say only 26 percent of Americans want the ACA repealed.

This morning President-Elect Trump is out with an ambiguous and possibly meaningless (it’s sort of like Being There) series of tweets warning Republicans to “be careful” and make sure that Democrats “own” the “ObamaCare disaster.” …

… They simply have no idea what to do and now they’re being taunted by Trump not to blow and he doesn’t have any idea either. It would be funny if millions of people’s lives and well being weren’t on the line.

For the Democrats, the plan seems to be to let the Republicans hang themselves. CNN:

President Barack Obama delivered a mandate to Democrats on Wednesday: “Don’t rescue” Republicans on Obamacare.

Less than three weeks out from leaving the White House, Obama visited Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill with a mission to save his signature healthcare reform law as Republicans are moving quickly to unroll the Affordable Care Act.

In the closed-door meeting, the President urged fellow Democrats to not “rescue” Republicans by helping them pass replacement measures, according to sources in the room.

He also floated this idea: Start referring to the GOP’s new plan as “Trumpcare.”

The suggestion was a clear indication of the Democratic Party’s goal of turning the tables on Republicans, who are already facing pressure to quickly craft a replacement bill.

Regrettably, that may be the best plan.

Update: Apparently Trump (via the Mouth of Sauron, a.k.a. Kellyanne Conway) he can fix things so that everybody who has insurance will still have insurance, and that people with pre-existing conditions will still be covered. Heh.

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Kerry’s Rebuke of Israel: Too Little, Too Late?

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Israel, Obama Administration

This happened:

In what may be the last important act of his public life, Kerry got up on Tuesday and tried to explain the current state of affairs in the Middle East—specifically, the relationships between Israel and the United States, between Israel and the occupied Palestinian population, and between Israel and the rest of the world. He telegraphed the speech, which gave the usual suspects a head start at taking bites out of it.

But Kerry never has been better than when he drops political calculation—at which he probably is the most obvious politician I’ve ever seen—and fastens his feet to the ground. Per the CSPAN transcript of his remarks:

This is an issue which I have worked on intensively during my time as Secretary of State for one simple reason—because the two state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure that Israel has a future, as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. The only way to ensure a future of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people and it is an important way of advancing United States’ interest in the region. I would like to explain why that future is now in jeopardy. And provide some context for why we could not in good conscience stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.

So, no, there will be no apology to Benjamin Netanyahu, and his good friend, the President-elect of the United States. Kerry explained this to Netanyahu. He pretty much told Donald Trump to stay in the backseat where he belongs.

Friends need to tell each other hard truths. And friendships require mutual respect. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, who does not support a two state solution, said after the vote last week, quote—”It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values we share and veto this resolution.” I am compelled to respond today that the United States did in fact vote in accordance with our values. Just as previous U.S. administrations have done at the security council before us…We cannot properly defend and protect Israel if we allow a viable two state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes. That is the bottom line.

… I honestly don’t know what else Kerry could have said. Gaza remains an open wound. The settlements are a permanent roadblock at this point, and somebody had to promote the two-state solution at least for the record before El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago comes in and (perhaps) abandons it entirely. And Netanyahu—and the Fox News ambassador he sent over here—richly deserved the slap that came afterwards.

The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described as “more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history,” are leading in the opposite direction, towards one state.

If that’s the last big moment for John Kerry on a public stage, it at least was a principled one. Whoever comes next is really on his or her own.

Then came the usual side-taking and ducking for cover:

Secretary of State John Kerry’s rebuke of the Israeli government on Wednesday set off a wave of criticism from lawmakers in both parties. Republicans denounced what they said was the Obama administration’s harsh treatment of a steadfast ally and Democrats signaled that they were uneasy with Mr. Kerry’s pressure on Israel, even as they praised the effort to promote Middle East peace.

Democrats named as being critical of Kerry’s speech were New York’s Sen. Chuckie Schumer (but you knew that already, didn’t  you?), Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, and Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York. Republicans on the whole are more loyal to Bibi Netanyahu’s Israel than they are to the U.S., so we know how they reacted.

In Europe, however, Mr. Kerry’s speech was greeted warmly, with officials calling it a courageous and thoughtful effort to salvage the idea of a two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians. Still, across the Arab world, his harsh words for Israel were met with a collective shrug, coming at the end of eight years of Obama administration policies that left many in the Middle East frustrated.  …

… In France, Britain and Germany, Mr. Kerry’s speech was greeted with more full-throated support. Senator Nathalie Goulet, vice president of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the French Senate, said Mr. Kerry “is right, he is absolutely right.”

“The more there are settlements,” she said, “the less it is likely there will be a two-state solution. But nobody ever dares condemn Israel. There is a double standard that nourishes the propaganda of the terrorists.”

In a statement, the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, praised Mr. Kerry’s speech as a “passionate and deeply convincing” defense of “the only credible way” to solve the issue: a two-state solution.

British officials said they regarded Mr. Kerry’s speech as a thoughtful summary of longstanding British and European concerns about the direction of Israeli politics. Britain and France, both members of the Security Council, voted for the resolution on settlements, and France has been extremely active in pressing for a kind of peace conference, to which the Israelis have objected.

In the Arab world, analysts said the Obama administration should have spoken out sooner.

“At the last five minutes of the hour, apparently Kerry and Obama are showing some courage to stand up to Israel, but it is coming too late in the game,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science in the United Arab Emirates. “It is after the fact. They should have shown this amount of political courage four years ago, if not eight years ago.”

I’m with Abdulkhaleq Abdulla on that one, although we know that Kerry’s predecessor in the State Department would never have given that speech. She made that clear last March. So it was up to Kerry to say what needed to be said. Fat lot of good it will do, though.

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Unilateral Dehumanizing Disarmament

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Obama Administration

The Rabbi Michael Lerner is a wise man. He wrote this column right after the election, and I missed it at the time, but I am pointing to it now.

Though job loss and economic stagnation played a role in his victory, so did shame. As the principal investigator on a study of the middle class for the National Institute of Mental Health, I found that working people’s stress is often intensified by shame at their failure to “make it” in what they are taught is a meritocratic American economy.

The right has been very successful at persuading working people that they are vulnerable not because they themselves have failed, but because of the selfishness of some other villain (African-Americans, feminists, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, liberals, progressives; the list keeps growing).

I also blame liberals/Democrats for not doing a better job of bringing a different message to the white working class. I’ve been ranting about the iron curtain of right-wing hegemony. In vast parts of the country, most people are never exposed to progressive views. They don’t see them on the teevee, they don’t read them in their local papers. Unless you make an effort to seek out other opinions, the only opinions you ever hear are right-wing opinions.

This accounts for a lot of the lingering racism in the U.S., by the way. Yes, this racism is real, and it is pervasive. But we could have moved further beyond it by now, if the Right weren’t allowed a media monopoly in large parts of the country. And we could have moved further beyond it by now if progressive voices had been heard everywhere in the U.S. Maybe more folks would have gotten a clue that working people of all colors have many common causes.

In short, the Democratic Party’s near abandonment of the white working class — to the point of not even talking to them — makes Democrats at least partly responsible for the racism that frustrates and defeats them.

The dominance of the iron curtain came about because right-wingers started working back in the 1970s to put together an integrated institutional-media infrastructure that hones right-wing messages and gets them in front of the public. After all this time, the Left hasn’t come anywhere close to creating anything similar. Chip Berlet published a fine rant about this on Facebook last week, and I recommend it highly.

But let’s go back to Rabbi Lerner. This part is not going to sit well with a lot of folks:

Instead of challenging this ideology of shame, the left has buttressed it by blaming white people as a whole for slavery, genocide of the Native Americans and a host of other sins, as though whiteness itself was something about which people ought to be ashamed. The rage many white working-class people feel in response is rooted in the sense that once again, as has happened to them throughout their lives, they are being misunderstood.

The truth is, if you’re a rust belt white guy who is stressed out of his mind about job insecurity, layoffs, underemployment, loss of opportunity and decaying communities, being called out for “white privilege” is utterly infuriating. I understand that white privilege is real, but I really wish we could retire the term outside of academia. Any demographic group experiencing rising mortality rates is not “privileged.” See also “All Hollowed Out: The lonely poverty of America’s white working class.”

Skipping down a bit, the Rabbi concludes,

Democrats need to become as conscious and articulate about the suffering caused by classism as we are about other forms of suffering. We need to reach out to Trump voters in a spirit of empathy and contrition. Only then can we help working people understand that they do not live in a meritocracy, that their intuition that the system is rigged is correct (but it is not by those whom they had been taught to blame) and that their pain and rage is legitimate.

After the election I saw a lot of rage directed at Trump voters. Urban liberals passed many judgments on them and spoke of white working class Americans in clinical terms, as if they were an exotic aboriginal tribe recently discovered in the wilderness. And those were the polite comments. The less polite dismissed the white working class as racists and rubes and fools, and according to one widely cited article they couldn’t think properly because their brains have been scrambled by religion. I saw little sympathy; just contempt.

Part of the problem is that “Trump voters” are all presumed to be just like the neo-nazi fanboys who show up for Trump rallies and threaten dissenters with violence. Yes, Trump tapped into a faction of racist extremists who hate modern civilization and want to destroy it. But “Trump voters” also include people who just want some attention paid to their problems, which have been ignored by both parties for too long.

Like it or not, Trump spoke to them and seemed to “get” them. Clinton didn’t speak to them at all. Yes, Trump’s pitch was a con, but as I keep saying, nobody speaks to the white working class except to manipulate them. That’s been true for a long time.

Sarah Kliff went to Kentucky to find out why people who really needed Obamacare voted for Trump. The answer: It’s complicated. They didn’t believe he actually would end it; they thought he would make it better. And of course, there’s a belief that somehow, somewhere, there are undeserving (and probably dark) people getting better benefits. We might all be frustrated by how ignorant that is. But who told them anything different? Who actually explained to them that if they vote for Trump they might lose their insurance? Did a single one of Hillary Clinton’s ads about Trump using naughty words or getting his ties made in China talk about the ACA?

I’m writing this from Trump Country. People here are mostly walking around with standard human brains in their heads. Most of them possess the standard amount of human empathy. They can read and write and find foreign countries on a map about as well as average city folks. Most of them are not members of the Klan or actually expect the Second Coming to happen any day now. They have a one-side view of politics because the Right talks to them, and the Left doesn’t.

I repeat: The Right talks to them. The Left doesn’t. That didn’t use to be true. I can remember when a liberal politician of the John Kennedy mold could get a respectful hearing here. But that was decades ago.

Not everyone gets this. Amanda Marcotte recently wrote,

Under the circumstances, it’s understandable that many people are arguing that we need more empathy and communication across partisan lines in this country. And clearly we do! The problem is that such efforts are almost always one-sided: Liberals are instructed to reach out to conservatives and practice empathy for them, as evidenced by the series of preachy articles published in the wake of the election, urging urban liberals to get out of their supposed bubbles and talk to conservatives in the heartland.

The irony in all this is that the reason pundits ask this of liberals and not conservatives is because they know liberals are likely to listen. Everyone understands, on some level, that asking conservatives to reach out to liberals will be met with a bunch of guffaws, a profane invitation to perform anatomically difficult feats and more stereotypes about how liberals are a bunch of useless welfare sucks.

Okay, let’s think about this. The Democrats just got clobbered in a national election. We didn’t just lose the White House to an odious toad. We lost all across the U.S.

Republicans control both chambers in 32 states, including 17 with veto-proof majorities. Those 32 states cover 61 percent of the U.S. population. Democrats, meanwhile, control the legislature in just 13 states, amounting to 28 percent of the country’s population; only four of those chambers have veto-proof majorities.

With a firm grip on the presidency, Congress, and soon the Supreme Court, Republicans have won more political power in 2016 than in any election since at least 1928, when Herbert Hoover was elected to the White House. Democrats now face a deep hole they need to climb out of to fight back against the coming reactionary policy shift of the pending Trump administration and its allied state governments.

We’re not going to turn that around until we stop stamping our feet and wailing, but it’s not fair! I don’t wanna talk to those awful other people! 

Indeed, the biggest reason we are losing is that we don’t talk to those people. So maybe we should change our attitude, if only because it’s in our own bleeping self-interest to do so.

We are the ones who need people who are being hurt by The System and The Plutocracy to unify.  The Right benefits by keeping us divided. Got that?

Marcotte complains that the Right dehumanizes liberals, and that’s absolutely true. Liberals are the boogyman here. Throughout the campaign I saw one political ad after another in which the Democrat was sneered at as a liberal, as if nothing more needed to be said.

But the reason that works is that liberals are perceived to be snooty rich city folks who look down their noses at us and think they are better than us, and nobody tells them any different. And, truth be told, sometimes they have a point. Urban, educated professionals really do live in their own bubble and don’t see what’s going on out here in Walmart Land.

So, I am proposing unilateral dehumanizing disarmament. The white working class needs progressivism, even if they don’t understand that themselves. It’s up to us to do outreach and find a way to bring as many as we can into the progressive fold. And I say it’s do-able. You won’t get all of them, especially older people, but if we don’t get some of them, we are doomed.

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Talk Among Yourselves

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Obama Administration

My PC is having internet connection issues, so for the moment I can only post from my Kindle Fire. This is a step up from clay tablets, but barely. So just carry on.

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John Glenn, 1921-2016

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Obama Administration

An all-around decent human being. He had the right stuff.

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Why Certainty Is Killing Us

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big picture stuff, Obama Administration

There’s a great article/short video at the New York Times‘s site that I urge everyone to check out. Here’s the video by itself:

From the article:

Dr. Kruglanski is best known for his theory of “cognitive closure,” a term he coined in 1989 to describe how we make decisions. “Closure” is the moment that you make a decision or form a judgment. You literally close your mind to new information.

If you have high “need for closure,” you tend to make decisions quickly and see the world in black and white. If you have a low need for closure, you tolerate ambiguity, but often have difficulty making decisions. All of us fall naturally somewhere on this spectrum.

But during times of fear and anxiety — like, for example, right now — everybody’s need for closure increases. We tend to make judgments more quickly, regardless of the facts. We’re also drawn to leaders who are decisive and paint solutions in simple terms. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Kruglanski and his team of researchers found that as the color-coded terrorism threat system increased, support for President George W. Bush went up accordingly. The more uncertain our world seems, the more we compensate by seeking out certainty.

In my talk in Brooklyn a few days ago, I argued that moral absolutism, which appears to offer clear, simple answers to moral questions, doesn’t really work. And then I touched on the problem of ambiguity in making moral decisions.

I realize people often are uncomfortable with ambiguity. They want clear rules and sharply defined boundaries. They want all phenomena to be properly sorted into their socially acceptable conceptual boxes. That’s why some people prize moral absolutism. That’s a mostly workable strategy for getting through life, but it’s not real. It’s an artificial order superimposed on the messiness of reality. And sometimes failing to accept reality causes more trouble than it solves.

One of the great humanistic philosophers of the 20th century, Erich Fromm, wrote that people often escape into authoritarian mass movements because they fear freedom. A lot of that fear of freedom is a fear of ambiguity, a lack of clear, bright lines that make your choices for you.

I think we see a lot of that fear in America today. And notice that some of the same people who talk about how they want to protect their freedom seem hell bent on destroying everybody’s freedom to do that. It’s like they’re protecting their freedom to be not free. But those clear, bright lines are not likely to come back, so this is a situation we’re going to have to deal with for a while.

It seems to me that vast numbers of people across the political spectrum have seized upon simplistic, black-white visions of the world instead of dealing with the messiness and ambiguity of reality. Political leaders, for example, are seen as absolutely good or absolutely evil. Your hero’s opponent is hell bent on getting us into war and bringing on a New World Order under corporate control, and probably eats puppies for breakfast, while your favored political leader is pure and holy and above criticism, and electing him/her will take away all the frightening things and make the world behave as you wish it would. Fill in the names of any politicians into that last sentence; you can find plenty of people who think that way.

In this fevered environment the most absurd conspiracy theories are accepted as holy truth, and those who don’t accept them as gospel are derided as “sheeple” and dupes of the system. It doesn’t help that people are making money with clickbait sites running fake news stories that appear to confirm the worst of the nonsense.

But certainty is very comforting psychologically. In the words of the great Eric Hoffer,

To be in possession of an absolute truth is to have a net of familiarity spread over the whole of eternity. There are no surprises and no unknowns. All questions have already been answered, all decisions made, all eventualities foreseen. The true believer is without wonder and hesitation. … The true doctrine is the master key to all the world’s problems. With it the world can be taken apart and put together. [The True Believer, p. 82]

Getting back to Erich Fromm — one of his seminal works is the book Escape From Freedom (1941), in which he argued that many people simply cannot function within the ambiguities of a truly free society. Such people tend to “escape” in three ways. One, they seek to become part of an authoritarian system, handing their moral and political agency over to an authoritarian leader; two, they become destructive and just want to destroy everything they don’t like; three, they become hyper-conformist, adapting to the opinions and moral values of whatever group he associates with.

We’re seeing all of that now. The terrible irony is that many of the people trying to escape freedom are screaming that they are fighting for their freedom.  But it’s not freedom they seek, but its opposite.

American politicians have been stoking the fires of fear as far back as I can remember.  It used to be fear of Communism. Then it was fear of racial desegregation. Then it was anti-war hippies, women’s libbers, liberals and gay people. It’s always something. But now a large part of the American electorate are fear junkies. They’re like horror movie fans; they want to be frightened, and they want a big, strong hero to come along and save them from the monsters. And as many keep pointing out, this is exactly how totalitarian regimes take hold.

I like the way the video closes:

How do we know the difference between extremism and fighting for a just cause? There’s no easy answer to the question. That’s what makes certainty so dangerous. When you dismiss other points of view, when you ignore information that is critically relevant to making a good judgment. That’s why we should be suspicious of our own sense of righteousness. The alternative is the abyss.

We should be suspicious of our own sense of righteousness. Amen. Righteousness is intoxicating; it makes us feel powerful, especially against that thing we’re afraid of. But it does nothing to help us think clearly or make sensible judgments. It makes us blind to the abyss.

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Michelle Malkin vs. Reality

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Obama Administration

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything about Michelle Malkin, since I rarely run into her on the Web any more. We travel in different circles, apparently. But today I bumped into a column she wrote about Obamacare that shows she’s still the same toxic waste dump of stupid she ever was.

Here’s the story: Because she’s self-employed — a “self-employed small-business owner” in her words — she buys insurance on the Colorado state insurance exchange. But she is not happy.

Our most recent plan features a $6,000 deductible with a $1,000 monthly premium. It’s nosebleed expensive, but provides us access to specialists not curtailed by bureaucratic gatekeepers. This has been important for us because several members of my family have required specialized care for chronic illnesses.

Once again, however, I’ll soon be talking about our plan in the past tense. Choices for families like mine have evaporated in the era of Obamacare. In Colorado, UnitedHealthCare and Humana will cease selling individual plans next year. Rocky Mountain Health Plans is pulling out of the individual market in all but one county. Nearly 100,000 of my fellow Coloradans will be forced to find new insurance alternatives as open enrollment approaches on Nov. 1, according to the Denver Business Journal.

Here’s her punch line:

Every time we receive a cancellation letter, I recall President Obama’s big lie: “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”

Now, that was an ill-advised thing for the President to have said; he probably meant to say that if you like the insurance you have the government won’t take it away from you. But that’s not what he said, so it’s been held against him, and the ACA, ever since.

But it’s not as if people didn’t have their health insurance ripped out from under them before the ACA was passed. It happens frequently enough to people who get their insurance through employment. It’s happened to me at least twice, when an employer decided to go with a different company for group insurance. I remember finding a co-worker weeping, because the new network didn’t include the trusted oncologist who had been helping her husband battle cancer. This was sometime in the late 1990s, long before the ACA.

I don’t know why Colorado or some other states are losing insurance companies, although see Sarah Kliff for one explanation. But this is nothing that a federal pubic option wouldn’t fix, I suspect.

And you’d think that health insurance costs had never gone up before the ACA was passed. The chart from Kaiser shows how employer-based health care has been going up all these years:

But now I want to go back to what Malkin wrote — she’s self-employed, and “several members of my family have required specialized care for chronic illnesses.” And it’s expensive, but it “provides us access to specialists not curtailed by bureaucratic gatekeepers.” I want to know what Malkin was doing for insurance before the ACA. Did she have any at all? If so, did it provide as much coverage? Does she realize that in most states before the ACA, if you had a chronic condition you could be denied coverage? Those pesky pre-existing conditions!

So, thanks to the ACA, she’s got insurance, in spite of the cancellations. Other policies are available in Colorado. She may not like her choices as well, but she’s got choices. Before the ACA, lots of people had no choices. And because so many states stubbornly refuse to expand Medicaid, lots of people who could have choices still don’t have them.

Are some of those family members with chronic conditions children? Remember the war Malkin waged against the S-chip program?

And if she hates Obamacare so much, why is she using it? Oh wait .. because there’s no other insurance available to her? Just a guess. Before the ACA, where you could buy private health plans at all, they tended to be ripoff plans with lousy coverage. In states that didn’t allow ripoff insurance to be sold, often there was little to no private insurance market. Complain to the insurance companies about that, toots.

And yes, health insurance is expensive because health care in the U.S. is expensive. That’s because it’s a mostly private, for-profit system, and there are few controls on price gouging. That was true before the ACA was passed, and it will still be true if the ACA is repealed.

And most of these problems would go away if we reduced or eliminated our dependency on a private, for-profit health care industry — which I’m sure Malkin opposes.

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Wingnut Dreams

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Obama Administration

Let’s try to overlook the obvious social-psychological issues and basic stupidity of these people and discuss What This Means for the election itself:

“I am a Trump lady. I love Trump. He’s a real man,” said Carol Simone, 69. “He’s going to make us be good again.”

Watching the second presidential debate at Chickie’s and Pete’s in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, Simone wore two “Trump-Pence” stickers, one on her black vest, another on her straw cowboy hat.

“We desperately need him,” she said. “We need him to build a wall to keep Isis out.” …

… The crowd got louder as the debate progressed. Whenever Clinton began talking there were boos and jeers and shouts, usually of “Benghazi” or “emails”, but sometimes just swear words.

Cruciata, the man who used to do sweaters, was among the most vocal.

At one point Trump said “everything” Clinton had done related to foreign policy had been “a disaster”.

“Everything! Everything!” Cruciata shouted. “Even marrying Bill!”

Trump carried on criticizing Clinton.

“You’re gonna cry tonight!” Cruciata shouted.

Clinton, responding to Trump on foreign policy, said she would not send American troops to Syria.

“You should go yourself!” Cruciata shouted. “And get killed!”

Smith gave him a high-five.

Finally, Trump and Clinton were let go by the debate moderators. Cruciata, through an impressive range of insults, looked spent. Simone, in her words “a little bit drunk”, made for the exit. Smith, after many fist pumps into the air, sounded hoarse.

“He opened a can of whoop-ass on her,” he said. He added that he didn’t believe in polls, but that Trump may have won some new voters by “sticking to the issues”.

I asked Smith what his favourite moment was.

“There were so many,” he said. He thought for a second.

“Oh! When he said she should go to jail.”

These are highlights from a story in the Guardian about a debate-viewing party in a bar in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. We’re basically looking at people who have been marinated in Faux News propaganda for many years, and for them I suspect this debate was a fantasy come true. Here was God Emperor Trump bullying the Demon Queen Hillary and uploading “the whole oppo file on Bill.” It must have been like seeing Captain America finally crushing Red Skull.

However, I think for most people Trump grossly overplayed his hand. His insistence on remaining behind her in the camera frame so he could loom over her and scowl was just creepy, and I can’t imagine it endeared him to anybody who wasn’t already in his camp.

Still, I was a bit surprised that post-debate polls overwhelmingly favored Clinton. I would have expected it to have been even. Clinton didn’t own him this time, but was on the defensive. He told lies so fast there was no time to challenge one before he was spewing out the next one.

However, I don’t think Clinton made any mistakes. I don’t expect this debate to cost her anything, which in effect means she won it. She’s ahead; he needed to broaden his support to stay competitive, and I can’t imagine he did.

His threat to put Hillary Clinton in jail if he is elected is the most talked-about single moment in the debate today. Right-wing media loved it. In their fevered imaginations they’ve even added a line he didn’t say, that she would fear him as president. Wingnuts loved it. Most people were appalled, because they recognized that this is was dictators do.

Bottom line: The Right’s ultimate dream is to make the U.S. a right-wing dictatorship in which the civil liberties guaranteed us by the Constitution they claim to worship could be wiped out on the whims of their God Emperor. They want a Strong Man to come and save them from everything they hate and fear, which is pretty much most of the world. This is what the Republican Party has devolved into.

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Winner and Winners of the Veep Debate

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The Veep debate had multiple winners, depending on what you mean by “winning.” For example:

I’d say Mike Pence won in the category of Likely 2020 GOP Front Runner. Word is that the Republican establishment is weeping and wailing today that Pence isn’t at the top of the ticket instead of Trump.

Mike Pence also arguably won in the category of Coming Across as More Reasonable Than He Really Is. Pence actually is a five-alarm whackjob who got into politics after hosting an Indiana radio show, apparently as a softer-spoken version of Rush Limbaugh. He is anti-women, anti-science, anti-LGBT rights, anti-Black Lives Matter, and pretty much anti-modern secular society. But the Crazy Vibes didn’t come through the teevee monitor.

And Mike Pence probably won the Sympathy category, since Kaine came across as something of an over-eager attack dog, especially in the first 30 minutes or so of the debate.

I believe Tim Kaine won Most Effective Sound Bites, which probably is what he was going for. Examples:

“So it’s smart not to pay for our military, our veterans and our teachers? And I guess all of us who pay for those things are stupid.”

“Donald Trump can’t start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot.”

“If you don’t know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, then you’ve got to go back to a fifth grade civics class.”

Mike Pence, on the other hand, had the Most Talked-About Sound Bites. These were “I try to spend a little time on my knees every day” and everyone’s favorite, “Senator, you whipped out that Mexican thing again.”

Stephen Colbert: “That Mexican thing? That Mexican thing? It has a name governor,” Colbert said. “I call it Pedro. And it taught me Spanish.”

Not touchin’ that.

TimKaine won the Fact-Checker Award. According to Politifact, 79 percent of Kaine’s statements were true or mostly true, versus 31 percent of Pence’s statements.

Pence was at a disadvantage, of course, because time and time again Kaine challenged him to defend some dumb thing Trump had said, and Kaine had little recourse but to pretend The Donald hadn’t actually said those things. Here’s a run-down.

I’ll be really astonished to not see a television ad showing Pence denying things Trump had said, followed by the video of Trump saying them. Bottom line, Pence is at least self-aware enough to know that he couldn’t defend Trump directly without looking ridiculous. His debate performance amounted to throwing Trump under the bus while pretending he wasn’t really throwing Trump under the bus.

More winners:

The Unintended Irony Award goes to Donald J. Trump. While Mike Pence was rejecting the charge that Trump was running an “insult-driven campaign,” Trump was on Twitter, posting insults.

Elaine Quijano gets the award for First Asian-American Woman to Moderate a Vice Presidential Debate. I thought she did pretty well; definitely better than Matt Lauer, and no worse than Lester Holt.

Now, who won the debate? I’m hearing people say Pence won on style and Kaine won on substance, and I can’t argue with that.  I don’t think it will move the needle much, if at all. I agree with the FiveThirtyEight crew, that this debate will be quickly forgotten.

Well, except for the Mexican Thing. That’ll be with us for awhile.

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A Tale of Trump’s Taxes

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Today in Trump News, the NY Times somehow got its hands on a copy of part of Trump’s tax returns from 1995 that show some, um, losses.

Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show.

The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.

Most people, I suspect, would consider losing nearly a billion dollars in one year an indication that one is something of a screw-up. But not Trump and the Trumpettes.

Trump and his surrogates, meanwhile, tried Sunday to turn the story into an asset, saying that reports he avoided paying taxes for years prove his business acumen and deep knowledge of the tax system.

“He’s a genius at how to take advantage of legal remedies that can help your company survive and grow,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on ABC’s This Week.  “I want a man who’s a genius at figuring out how to take this country, that’s moving in the wrong direction.”

Christie told Fox News Sunday that it was a “very, very good story” for Trump, and noted that “he’s already promised in his tax plan to change many of these special interest loopholes and get rid of them, so you don’t have this kind of situation.”

Yes, losing a billion dollars is genius. What else can one say? Meanwhile, the Washington Post has a story up about Trump having another public meltdown yesterday after this news broke. A couple of highlights:

He told the crowd to get a group of friends together on Election Day, vote and then go to “certain areas” and “watch” the voters there. “I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about,” Trump said. “So, go and vote and then go check out areas because a lot of bad things happen, and we don’t want to lose for that reason.” …

… “Hillary Clinton’s only loyalty is to her financial contributors and to herself,” Trump said. “I don’t even think she’s loyal to Bill, if you want to know the truth.”

The crowd gasped and many shouted: “Ohhhhh!”

Trump shrugged.

“And really, folks,” Trump continued, “really, why should she be? Right? Why should she be?”

Back to the Times — publishing a tax return without authorization to do so is against the law, and the Times may end up paying a penalty for it. But I’m sure the Times editors knew this and decided the benefits outweighed the costs. That was gutsy of them. Credit where credit is due.

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