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CBO Concludes that 24 Million Fewer People Will Have Insurance Under Ryan's Plan

The CBO has now issued its much-awaited report on the health-care plan proposed by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). It says that 14 million more people will be uninsured in 2018 than now are. By 2026, when the full effects of Ryan's plan are felt, the increase in the uninsured population will rise to 24 million. This is even worse than the report the Brookings Institution issued last week that said 15 million people would lose insurance. The report concludes that if the plan passes, then by 2026 there will be 52 million Americans without any health insurance.

These numbers are not going to make it any easier for the Republicans to enact the bill into law. In particular, the Senate is going to be a real bottleneck. Nevertheless, Ryan is going to try hard to ram it through the House and send it to the Senate, where it becomes the problem of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Ryan is going to focus on a few elements of the report that will appeal to many Republicans. First, the bill will reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion over the next decade, because it is much stingier with subsidies to poor people. Second, it will cut taxes for rich people since the taxes needed to pay for the subsidies will be reduced if the subsidies are reduced. Third, it eliminates the mandate to buy insurance, something many Republicans bitterly hate, even though the idea of forcing people to buy insurance from a private company was dreamed up by the conservative Heritage Foundation in the 1990s.

Republican leaders don't seem to be surprised or worried about the large number of people who will lose insurance if the bill passes. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) put it like this: "[W]hen you don't punish people financially for their refusal to buy government approved insurance, people are gonna make a decision not to buy it." In reality, covering large numbers of people was never a goal of the new bill. Its primary goal was to eliminate the mandate and the taxes used to pay for the subsidies. Another goal was to gut Medicaid, which many Republicans see as free medical care for the undeserving poor who haven't earned it.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that everyone who is currently covered by the ACA will continue to be covered in the new system. This report makes it clear that if the bill is passed as it currently stands, that statement is completely false. Now the ball is in Trump's court. He has to either back down on his claim and say "some" people may lose their insurance, but no one is stopping them from buying it themselves or he can say the CBO report is garbage and nobody will lose anything, despite the director, Keith Hall, being a Republican with a Ph.D. in economics who worked in the George W. Bush administration and who was appointed director of the CBO by a Republican Congress. The secretary of HHS, Tom Price, has already started dissing the CBO. Or, possibly, Trump could abandon the whole thing and just move onto the next topic.

Not surprisingly, DNC Chairman Tom Perez blasted Trump for failing to deliver on his promise of "insurance for everyone." Perez added: "Donald Trump's 'insurance for everyone' pledge was a big fat lie." Perez has only been on the job for two weeks, but already he has adopted Winston Churchill's famous motto: "The duty of the opposition is to oppose."

Whatever happens next is going to put the GOP in a real bind. If they somehow manage to twist enough arms and get the bill passed and signed, the 14 million people who are going to lose their insurance might just decide to vote in 2018, and it probably won't be overwhelmingly for the Republicans. On the other hand, if the bill dies and there is no way to patch it up to get it through both the House and Senate, then the Republicans and Trump will have broken a very major promise they have made their voters for seven years: "We will repeal ObamaCare." It is doubtful that the faithful will stream to the polls in 2018 to reward the party for breaking this key promise. Either way, they have a problem. (V)

Can GOP Win on Healthcare Bill?

At this point, even though the Republican Party controls both houses of Congress and the White House, it is essentially impossible that they are going to score a triumphant victory on health care. The problem, of course, is that they promised more than they could possibly deliver. Consider some of the statements of then-candidate Donald Trump:

  • Everybody's got to be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say. ... I am going to take care of everybody.

  • You're going to end up with great healthcare for a fraction of the price, and that's gonna take place immediately after we go in, OK? Immediately. Fast. Quick.

  • I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican. And I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.

Now, over-promising and under-delivering is par for the course for politicians, particularly on this issue. Barack Obama was guilty, too—everyone recalls his (false) promise that everyone would be allowed to keep their health insurance policies if they chose to do so. But Trump and his Republican cohort have taken this tendency to extremes, while at the same time being hemmed in by some of the core tenets of the party (no tax increases, no welfare, etc.).

The point is, healthcare is very unlikely to be a "success" on which the Republicans can run in two or four years. At this point, to a large extent, the GOP's goal has to be minimizing the damage that is done to the party. This leads to an interesting piece by Monique Morrissey of the Economic Policy Institute in which she argues that the GOP should be rooting for Paul Ryan's healthcare bill to go down in flames, as quickly as possible. The faster it dies, the fewer news cycles that are devoted to them ending up with egg on their faces. And then the story can be something like, "We tried, but those Democrats simply wouldn't let us make health care terrific!" They can even mix in a little talk of the deep state, and how corrupt the CBO is, and the evils of Big Medicine and Big Pharma, and the like.

Is Morrissey right here? Well, she's certainly right that the GOP created a trap for itself, using opposition to Obamacare as a rallying point for seven years, and then unexpectedly ending up with control of the the entire government. They clearly never intended to be in a position of crafting their own plan; if they were serious about that, they would have come up with something long ago. Or, at very least, they would have been a little more circumspect about promising rainbows and unicorns. Morrissey is also probably correct that a quick defeat is best, if only to minimize the negative headlines. However, the notion that the GOP can escape the trap entirely, and avoid being punished at the polls by voters in 2018 and 2020—well, as noted above, those odds would seem to be very long, indeed. (Z)

Trump Drops Obama Wiretap Claim...Or Maybe Not

Last week, the House Intelligence Committee sent a letter to the Trump administration in which they set a deadline of Monday for the President to either provide proof that he was wiretapped by Barack Obama, or else to withdraw the claim. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) made similar demands.

Thus far, Donald Trump has not generally been the type of person who responds well to demands from others. In fact, one could conceive of him deliberately delaying something he had already planned to do, simply to prove that he takes orders from no one. Nonetheless, at Monday's White House press conference, it certainly appeared that Press Secretary Sean Spicer was choosing option 2, and walking back the claim. Specifically, Spicer said that, "The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities," and also that Trump was not accusing Obama of personal involvement in the situation.

Now, let us examine Trump's original tweets again:

It is true that, in two of the three tweets, Trump put "wire tapping" in quotations. However, there was absolutely no other indication of any sort that he was using the term metaphorically. Further, the quotations seem to be more a function of Trump's poor grammar, since in each case he spelled the term differently, including an obvious misspelling in the third tweet. Meanwhile, the notion that Trump was not accusing Obama of personal involvement is plainly untrue. If that is the case, then who is the "Bad (or sick) guy!" being referenced?

Still, as of Monday afternoon, it seemed that we had our answer to how Trump was going to deal with the wiretap claims: spin away, until they are forgotten. But then, the Department of Justice asked the House Intelligence Committee for "additional time" to collect evidence in support of Trump's claims.

So, what is going on here? It's very hard to see this as part of a two-pronged strategy to somehow deal with the mess that Trump created with his Twitter account. That is to say, Sean Spicer's spin is so flimsy that it is essentially an admission that Trump blew it. At least, it's as close to an admission as the public is likely to get. If the plan is to delay, then there's really no sense in going on the record like this until necessary, just in case something useful turns up. That being the case, the most likely explanation is that it's another case of the administration's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. (Z)

Economic Populism May Not Help the Democrats

Some Democrats think that their salvation lies in pushing economic populism, such as a higher minimum wage. An article in Vox shows that a number of studies strongly suggest that this won't work. One study it cites is what has happened since Britain's Labour Party swung to the left and chose socialist Jeremy Corbyn as its leader in 2015. The result was the Brexit vote, plummeting poll numbers for the party, and a general public shift to the right on immigration and multiculturalism.

The same is true of other European countries. Several experts conclude that while economic populism is, well, popular, the driving forces in recent elections have been race, national identity, and multiculturalism. For voters whose beef is: "We don't want all these people who are different from us in our country," a response of "we'll increase your pay a bit" just doesn't do the job. A researcher at the University of Bergen found that voters' views on immigration policy were a near-perfect predictor of whether they supported a far-right anti-immigrant party. Economic policy didn't play much of a role.

If these findings are true, then the Democrats' moving to the left on economics will not have much of an impact on Trump voters whose main gripe is that there are too many Muslims and Mexicans in the country. Also, Democratic positions on inequality may be counterproductive if white voters see this as a way to redistribute money from themselves to undeserving minorities. If Trump's success was largely powered by the the perceived real meaning of his slogan as "Make America white again," appeals to economics aren't going to help much.

This doesn't mean the Democrats are doomed, but it does mean that trying to win back the white voters in the Rust Belt won't be easy. Raising the minimum wage is unlikely to help much, but concrete plans to create jobs there might. Having a progressive presidential candidate in 2020 who is a middle-aged white man from the Midwest might be worth a few points though. However, rather than focusing on winning back Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, if Democrats focus on winning North Carolina and Florida, with their much more diverse populations than the Rust Belt states, that would get them to 270 electoral votes in 2020. (V)

Steve King Goes Full White Supremacist

Let's play a game. Which of these statements were uttered by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) in the last week (in support of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders) and which ones are from white supremacist and former KKK Grand Dragon David Duke?

  1. You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else's babies. You've got to keep your birth rate up, and you need to teach your children your values.

  2. As for America and the rest of European world, I want to live in a nation that reflects my traditions and values, and I do not want my people to become a minority in the nations my own forefathers built.

  3. I'm a champion for western civilization and, yes, our English language is a big part of it. It's a carrier of freedom. Wherever the English language has gone globally, freedom went with it...This western civilization is a superior civilization, and we want to share it with everybody.

  4. I don't want white people to be supreme. But I do think we have a right to preserve our own culture, own heritage in our own country.

  5. In fact the struggles across this planet, we describe them as race, they're not race. They're culture based. It's a clash of culture, not the race.

All right...time's up. The answer is that the odd-numbered statements are from King, the even-numbered ones are from Duke. They are both, however, laden with core notions of white supremacist thinking, including: (1) A belief in Western/European supremacy, (2) A fear that European culture/values are under assault, (3) The pressing need for white people to "repopulate," and (4) The suggestion that white supremacy is not really about race/racism, but instead about self-defense/self-preservation.

Now, King is about as far right as it gets in the GOP, especially when it comes to matters of race. After all, the man has a Confederate battle flag on his desk, despite the fact that Iowa was not a part of the Confederacy. Nonetheless, he illustrates a key dilemma that the Republican Party currently finds itself in. On one hand, their current needs dictate that they must appeal—either overtly, or via dog whistles—to the voters who fear and resent immigrants and multiculturalism (see above). On the other hand, those voters are not going to be the sort of constituency that can carry a party long-term, since they are disproportionately older and rural, and so are shrinking in numbers.

King's own district (IA-4), which is 97% white, tells the tale. Though unemployment is low (2.9%), incomes are way down, thanks to declines in the farming and manufacturing economies. So, there is much resentment for him to tap into, and it is easy enough to portray the situation in racial terms. However, 31 of the 39 counties that King represents have seen a population decline since 2010, and the counties that are growing are the urban ones, particularly Story County, home to Iowa State University. There will come a time when the demographics reach a tipping point, and young, urban voters will be in the driver's seat. And by the time it happens in IA-04, it will have happened even more fully in more diverse purple states like Florida and North Carolina. At that point, the GOP could be left with a message that not only does not win elections, but also leaves them tarred as the party of racists, not unlike what happened with the Democratic Party in the late 19th century. Ergo, as a matter of politics, they should be thinking long and hard about exactly how far they want to go down the road that Steve King is so happy to travel. (Z)

Schumer Threatens a Government Shutdown in April

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned Donald Trump that if he insists on including funds for a wall on the Mexican border in his budget or if he defunds Planned Parenthood, Democrats might block the budget and precipitate a government shutdown starting April 29. If the Democrats decided to filibuster the budget bill, it would take 60 votes to invoke cloture and pass it. Republicans have only 52 seats in the Senate. Schumer said:

If Republicans insist on inserting poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall, or starting a deportation force, they will be shutting down the government and delivering a severe blow to our economy.

Remarks like this typically are just an opening gambit. Before actually shutting down the government, Schumer would have to be convinced that Trump would take much of the blame. (V)

Congressional Democrats to Propose Bill Banning LGBT Discrimination

Sometime this month, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) will introduce what they call the Equality Act in their respective houses of Congress. The bill would extend civil rights protections to add sexual orientation and gender identity, and would clarify that transgender people are not required to abide by the M/F that appears on their birth certificates.

These bills, of course, have zero chance of becoming law. In fact, they will not even make it out of committee, as was the case the last time the Democrats tried this, back in 2015. The goal is to use LGBT rights as a wedge issue, ideally compelling Republicans to go on record as being anti-LGBT (a position that is unpopular with young people and independent voters) or pro-LGBT (a position that is unpopular with much of the base). Famously, the Republicans used LGBT rights in exactly the same way in 2004, under the guidance of Karl Rove (albeit in the opposite direction, limiting rights rather than expanding them). So turnabout is fair play, it would seem. (Z).

Kushners Get $400 Million from Chinese Firm

Donald Trump isn't the only one who hasn't sold his businesses. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hasn't either. In fact, Kushner's business is doing just fine, thank you. Yesterday, it came out that a Chinese company with murky ties to the Chinese government, the Anbang Insurance Group, was planning to invest $400 million in Kushner's troubled property at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan (yes, that really is its address). The terms of the deal are regarded as especially favorable to Kushner. In addition to a large cash payout, Kushner's mortgage on the property would be reduced to 20% of its current amount.

Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, has called this a sweetheart deal and noted that a classic way to buy influence with politicians is to help them and their famililies financially. When Kushner bought the building in 2007 for $1.8 billion, it seemed like a brilliant move. But then the recession hit and the investment was close to insolvency. In 2011, Kushner had to sell a 49.5% stake to the Vornado Realty Trust, which has close ties to Trump, for a needed $80 million capital injection. In 2012, Vornado bought the retail spaces in the building for $707 million. When Kushner makes deals with domestic investors, there are generally no national security implications, but with the injection of a large amount of Chinese money, that may no longer be the case. (V)

Top Science Jobs in the Administration Are Nearly All Unfilled

Donald Trump's lack of interest in science is clear from the fact that he has made only one nomination to a top science job in his administration. There are no nominees for the president's science adviser, NASA or NOAA administrators, or 43 other Senate-confirmed science positions. The only top science post for which Trump has nominated someone is FDA commissioner.

It is possible that Trump will ultimately not name anyone to some of these positions because he does not think science has much to offer him, so he will just leave them vacant. He is also expected to propose deep budget cuts to the EPA, NASA, NOAA, and other agencies that deal with science. Trump's attitude toward science is even more extreme than that of George W. Bush, who took his time to name heads of the scientific agencies, but eventually filled all the positions. In Trump's case, it is likely that those positions he does fill will be filled by people who fundamentally oppose their own agency's mission. Physicist, former congressman, and current CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Rush Holt, Jr., compared Trump to previous presidents, saying: "It seems worse now, and it's not just because the appointments are slow, but there really has been not even any rhetoric from the administration that shows that they think science is important to them." (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar13 Republicans Are Brawling in Public over the New Health Care Bill
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Mar13 Merkel To Visit Trump Tomorrow with Some Bad News
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Mar12 It's Getting Harder to Gerrymander
Mar12 Major Insurance Company Supports ACA Replacement
Mar12 Trump Supporters Will Be Hit the Hardest by the AHCA
Mar12 Ads Targeting the New Health-Care Plan Have Started Already
Mar12 Mar-a-Lago Is a Spy's Paradise
Mar12 "Deep State" Conspiracy Theories Getting Wilder
Mar12 Cuomo Prepping to Throw His Hat into the Ring
Mar12 Dueling Bestsellers on Amazon
Mar11 Sessions Asks All Obama-appointed U.S. Attorneys to Resign Immediately
Mar11 "Deep State" Is Going Mainstream
Mar11 Transition Team Knew Flynn Should Have Registered as a Foreign Agent
Mar11 Every Day Brings More Russia Intrigue
Mar11 Trump: Jobs Numbers Aren't Fake Any More
Mar11 Congressional Budget Office Won't Pull Its Punches
Mar11 Nobody Wants His Name on GOP Healthcare Bill
Mar11 Why Jon Huntsman?
Mar11 Scott Pruitt No Fan of Science
Mar10 Cotton Says House Health-care Bill Won't Pass the Senate
Mar10 Ryan Sells Healthcare Bill, Underwhelms
Mar10 Brookings Study Says 15 Million People Will Lose Insurance If House Bill Passes
Mar10 What Is Trump's Plan B?
Mar10 Cruz Suggests that Pence Overrule the Senate Parliamentarian
Mar10 Can the Dots Be Connected?
Mar10 Huntsman Tapped for Russia Ambassadorship
Mar10 Four More States Will Sue Trump on Muslim Ban v2.0
Mar10 White House, Ethics Office Butt Heads
Mar10 D.C. Wine Bar Sues Trump
Mar09 Committees Begin Marking Up Health-Care Bill
Mar09 American Medical Association is Against the Ryan Plan
Mar09 AARP Comes Out Against GOP Health Plan
Mar09 Seven Pitfalls that Could Sink the Republican's Health-Care Plan
Mar09 Trump: Don't Worry, I'll Blame the Democrats
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Mar09 To Fund the Border Wall, Trump Will Slash National Security
Mar09 New Polls Today about Trump, Sessions, and Special Prosecutor
Mar09 Graham Says He Will Subpoena Information about Trump Wiretap
Mar09 Trump May Strike Out With Armed Services Secretaries
Mar08 WikiLeaks Posts CIA's Hacking Tools
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Mar08 Russian Billionaire's Jet and Trump's Jet Met Five Days before the Election
Mar08 Some Republicans Are Rejecting the ACA Replacement