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The Deep State Strikes Again

[ 59 ] March 15, 2017 |

sessions trump

A federal judge has ruled that there’s a strong likelihood that the Muslim Ban 2.0 unconstitutionally targets Muslims:

A federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday issued a sweeping freeze of President Trump’s new executive order hours before it would have temporarily barred the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and suspended the admission of new refugees.

In a blistering 43-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson pointed to Trump’s own comments and those of his close advisers as evidence that his order was meant to discriminate against Muslims and declared there was a “strong likelihood of success” that those suing would prove the directive violated the Constitution.

Watson declared that “a reasonable, objective observer — enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance — would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.”

He lambasted the government, in particular, for asserting that because the ban did not apply to all Muslims in the world, it could not be construed as discriminating against Muslims.

“The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable,” Watson wrote. “The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed.”

More on this tomorrow, but obviously good news.


Finally, Bipartisan Consensus Can be Achieved

[ 111 ] March 15, 2017 |


Americans can still reach across party lines when presented with genuine atrocities:

In what is easily the most important survey finding of the early days of the Trump administration, the left-leaning Public Policy Polling finds that Americans are generally united in their disdain for ketchup on steak. Over half (56 percent) say they disapprove of the practice. Only 27 percent are okay with it. And another 17 percent don’t seem to care either way.

Even more surprising, disapproval for putting ketchup on steak cuts across lines of race, gender, age and politics — with even a slim majority of ardent Trump fans declining to back their champion on this one.

However, I feel this is a DISTRACTION from the real issue — namely, once you’ve ruined a steak by cooking it well-done, objecting to the condiment seems superfluous. Hell, maybe ketchup does make shoe leather taste better.

Will TrumpCare Fail in the Senate?

[ 141 ] March 15, 2017 |



President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that it’s in the political interest of Republicans to just let the Obamacare exchanges collapse. “Let it be a disaster, because we can blame that on the Dems,” Trump told governors two weeks ago, summing up a thought he’s expressed repeatedly.

If Trump and some Republicans now think their best course of action is to do nothing and continue blaming problems with the health care system on Democrats, then perhaps the best cover they can offer their members is to move a GOP bill out of the House, watch it die in the Senate, and then spend the next two years blaming Senate Democrats in states that Trump won.

In that scenario, voters fail to recognize that Republicans have the power to pass this bill without a single Democratic vote, and the ire over Obamacare doesn’t dissipate even though voters have seen the GOP alternative.

If moderates knew that the House legislation would never go into effect, it might allow them to support the bill. It would become just another messaging vote.

House Republican aides are already starting to blame the Senate for intransigence.

Part of me thinks that it will fail in the Senate, and part of me thinks that Collins et al. can be persuaded that while taking health insurance from 24 million people to pay for a massive upper-class tax cut is unacceptable taking health insurance from 23.5 million people to pay for a slightly less massive upper-class tax cuts is a true Burkean compromise.

It is encouraging if Trump actually believes that Senate Democrats can be blamed for anything. It has no chance of working, but if Trump and perhaps some key Senate Republicans buy the myth, so much the better.

TrumpCare Would be the Result of Massive Institutional Failure

[ 245 ] March 15, 2017 |


A lot of ordinary Trump voters are directly in Paul Ryan’s crosshairs. It’s tempting to write them off as idiots. But before we blame them, we should start with the many politicians who lied to them, and a media that utterly failed to inform them:

This should start at the top. Trump’s approach to health care policy during the campaign was one he has applied to all fields: that is, to lie constantly. Trump explicitly promised that there would be “no cuts” to Medicaid, which TrumpCare would in fact cut big league. He also promised “insurance for everybody” and repeatedly asserted that this insurance would be better than Obamacare. Needless to say, under TrumpCare many fewer people would have insurance and the quality of insurance people could afford would more likely be worse than better.

Perhaps you could argue that anyone who trusts a liar as prolific as Trump gets the government they deserve. But it wasn’t just Trump. As Eric Levitz at New York magazine demonstrates, Republicans in general lied systematically about their plans for health care. As recently as January, Republican ads were cynically attacking Obamacare from the left, arguing (correctly!) that health care costs were too high and that plans were too expensive and not generous enough. Republicans were very careful not to be explicit about their plans to take away the health insurance of tens of millions of people to pay for tax cuts for the extremely affluent. It’s unfair to put more blame on the marks than on the deceitful con artists who ultimately offered them an egregious bait-and-switch.

If ordinary voters can’t be expected to have the background knowledge to see through the Republican health care fraud, surely political journalists can. And yet the media failed completely to adequately convey the policy stakes of the 2016 election. An ordinary voter could have no idea what to reasonably expect from Trump and a Republican Congress even if they made an honest effort to follow news about the election.

Mainstream media outlets mostly abandoned policy coverage during the 2016 elections. Network newscasts devoted exactly zero minutes of coverage to health care policy between January and late October of 2016. Only one question about health care was asked during the four presidential debates. A comprehensive study by the Shorenstein Center found that only 10 percent of media coverage of the campaign focused on policy. And much of that small fraction was devoted to Trump’s unorthodox stances on a few issues like trade, which could well have reinforced Trump’s false promises on health care, framing him as the kind of Republican who wouldn’t gut grandpa’s Medicare.

It’s not as if the Republican plans were a secret. They had passed numerous bills to repeal Obamacare when Obama was in office, and the effects of such repeals had been estimated.

And it’s even worse than that. While the media was mostly ignoring literally life-or-death issues like health care and climate change, it was providing voters with wall-to-wall coverage of one “issue”: Hillary Clinton’s email server. The bizarre saturation coverage of this trivial pseudo-scandal helped convince much of the public that Clinton was just as dishonest and corrupt as her opponent—a serial liar who refused to release his tax returns and has used the presidency to enrich himself on an entirely unprecedented scale. It also provided the ammunition FBI Director James Comey used to deliver the kill shot to Clinton’s campaign: the October letter to Congress announcing new alleged revelations about the server, which contributed to a significant late surge for Trump in battleground states.

And it’s also worth remembering that many more voters would be familiar with Donald Trump, reality star who epitomizes the successful businessman, than the real Donald Trump who swindles or tries to swindle pretty much everyone he tries to do business with. These voters were lied to, and the media not only failed to hold Republicans accountable, when they failed to find any misconduct on the part of Hillary Clinton that could create a Both Sides Do It narrative they just invented some.

2005 1040

[ 153 ] March 14, 2017 |



Donald Trump earned more than $150 million in the year 2005—and paid just a small percentage of that in regular federal income taxes. Daily Beast contributor David Cay Johnston has obtained what appear to be the first two pages of Trump’s 2005 federal income tax return, and published an analysis of those pages on his website, The Daily Beast could not independently verify these documents.

The documents show Trump and his wife Melania paying $5.3 million in regular federal income tax—a rate of less than 4% However, the Trumps paid an additional $31 million in the so-called “alternative minimum tax,” or AMT. Trump has previously called for the elimination of this tax.

I don’t know what will come of this, but Johnston is a first-rate reporter who’s extremely knowledgeable on the subject.

Blue State Secessionism Is Stupid And Reactionary

[ 367 ] March 14, 2017 |


Agree 100% with this:

For now, I will simply direct a plain message to all of the good liberals floating this idea with a nod and a wink: Hey, shut the fuck up. You’re not helping.

The fact that these proposals are written in a half-joking manner does not excuse them, in the same way that half-joked racism does not excuse the person caught saying it. The sentiment is real. And the sentiment behind the idea of blue state secession, broadly speaking, is this: “We are the states with all of the money. We are the states that pay most of the taxes to support the government programs that disproportionately help you, the poorer people in red states. We do this because we are good people. And yet you have the nerve to vote against all of it. Well, see how you like it without our help.”

This sentiment is covered with a fig leaf of concern-trolling: It’s not that we want to hurt you red state poor people, it’s that we’re concerned that you will hurt our blue state poor people. It is interesting, then, to note that the blue state secession movement mostly attracts the support not of the actual types of people who might be oppressed in Donald Trump’s America, but of very wealthy techies. Nothing more needs to be said about the fig leaf.

The impulse to bandy about the threat of secession is not rooted in concern for the vulnerable. It is a tantrum by rich people who are angry that their political power temporarily does not match their economic power. Think about how shallow a self-proclaimed liberal’s commitment to social justice has to be for them to say that the proper response to the ascent of a quasi-fascist amoral strongman is to cede him the majority of the nation’s territory and stop helping to support social programs for everyone not lucky enough to live in a coastal state. Ah, what brave commitment to justice for all! If 51% of your state voted for the bad man, we will condemn the other 49% to misery. That’s what good liberals are all about! We all remember how Abraham Lincoln became an American hero by telling the Confederacy: If you are uneducated enough to think that slavery is good, go be your own country. With time your slaves will certainly come to realize that blue states are preferable!

Even as a smug joke rather than a serious proposal, secessionist rhetoric isn’t much more attractive coming from the nominal left than it was from the 19th century slave power.

The Further Adventures Of Paul Ryan, International Man of Seriousity

[ 36 ] March 14, 2017 |


You might think that a CBO report showing that you plan to kill thousands of people a year and inflict physical and financial misery on countless more in order to pay for a massive upper-class tax cut would faze the leader who proposed it. At least, you could lie and say the report is wrong. Not Serious Policy Wonk who demonstrates his Deep Commitment to the Poor by doing photo-ops in closed soup kitchens, though, he can see an upside to it!

This report confirms that the American Health Care Act will lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care. [Ed note: that sound you just heard was Paul Ryan’s nose slamming into a tree in Minnesota.] CBO also finds that this legislation will provide massive tax relief, dramatically reduce the deficit, and make the most fundamental entitlement reform in more than a generation. These are things we are achieving in just the first of a three-pronged approach. It’s important to note that this report does not take into consideration additional steps Congress and the Trump administration are taking that will further lower costs and increase choices.

TrumpCare is “the most fundamental entitlement reform in more than a generation” in the sense that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was the most fundamental human rights legislation in a generation. Ed Kilgore:

This is, to put it mildly, a disingenuous take. According to CBO, the AHCA will actually boost premiums in the short term, and will boost them even more for poorer and older Americans. It does not, in fact, improve “access to quality, affordable care” — the insufficiency of its tax credits are a big reason for the coverage losses CBO anticipates. Ryan’s argument that this is just part of a “three-pronged approach” is specious for the reason I mentioned above: The idea that any iteration of this deeply broken Republican health-care plan will conceivably command 60 votes in the Senate is pure fantasy.

The one thing Ryan got right is that the CBO estimates the $935 billion in spending reductions via smaller tax credits and Medicaid cuts — all mostly affecting the working poor — will exceed the $599 billion in tax cuts, mostly targeted to the wealthy. That’s not an argument that will fare very well once it is understood.

And it’s even worse than this. Leaving aside the monstrosity of creating untold human suffering for deficit reductions, TrumpCare wouldn’t even result in net deficit reduction, since its passage is designed to facilitate the passage of further, permanent upper-class tax cuts.

If this barbarism actually passes, the book on how the media helped it happen needs several chapters on the creation of “Paul Ryan, Serious Policy Wonk” alongside chapters on “Hillary Clinton’s email server, the most consequential issue of the 2016 campaign.”

There is a Class War, and Paul Ryan Wants to Detonate an Atomic Bomb

[ 201 ] March 14, 2017 |


The bottom line:

Another way of saying this is that the Affordable Care Act was one of the single largest downward redistributions of income in American history, made more so when considered in the context of the Obama administration’s increases in taxes on the rich and expansions of tax credits for the poor. This was a point that Jason Furman, Obama’s chief economist, made well in a speech last October.

“In concert with the effects of the ACA coverage provisions, changes in tax policy since 2009 will by 2017 boost incomes for families in the bottom quintile by 18 percent, or $2,200 (the equivalent to about a decade of income gains), and in the second quintile by about 6 percent, or $1,500, relative to what they would have been under the continuation of 2008 policies,” Furman noted. “Under President Obama, the Federal investment in inequality has increased by about 0.8 percent of potential GDP, more than any previous president since the Great Society.”

You don’t have to take Furman’s word for it. A simple glance at the funding mechanisms of the ACA — things like the surtaxes on income above $250,000 — and what it spent money on (namely health insurance for the poor) makes it clear that it takes money from the rich and gives it to the poor, in the form of health insurance.

The American Health Care Act, the Republican health care legislation backed by President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan, undoes basically all of those components. And then it goes a step further, by slashing Medicaid to below its pre–Affordable Care Act levels using a per capita cap.

The AHCA would reverse one of the greatest actions against inequality ever taken by the federal government, and then increase inequality yet further. It is an act of class warfare against low-income Americans, waged for the benefit of the handful of rich taxpayers affected by Obamacare’s surtaxes.

You know, for an act of perfidious corporate neoliberalism written by the Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich, the Affordable Care Act sure had an awful lot of regulation and downward wealth distribution. Still, I think we can safely conclude that Hillary Clinton was the more dangerous evil.

TrumpCare is a Human Rights Atrocity

[ 341 ] March 13, 2017 |


If TrumpCare passes, by 2026 roughly 24 million people will be liberated from the tyranny of having health insurance:

The Congressional Budget Office on Monday released its long-awaited analysis of the Republican plan to replace Obamacare — and it contains some very bad news for supporters of the American Health Care Act.

CBO projects that the Republican plan would cause 24 million Americans to lose coverage by 2026. This is a much bigger drop in coverage than experts had expected. Republican legislators will now be forced to answer questions about why tens of millions of Americans will lose coverage and how those people will fare under the new system.

The CBO projections also show that a promise President Trump and his advisers have made multiple times — that Trump would draft a bill that covered everyone, or that no one would lose coverage under his plan — to be flatly false.

Just this weekend, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said, “We don’t believe that individuals will lose coverage at all.” CBO says this is not the case whatsoever.

The Republican bill offers less help to people who buy their own insurance than Obamacare currently does. It also hugely pares back the Medicaid expansion, which covers millions of low-income Americans.

The CBO report lays bare that, taken together, those changes mean million fewer Americans would have coverage.

This is, to be clear, a plan to kill people:

Approximately 17,000 people could die in 2018 who otherwise would have lived if a House Republican health proposal endorsed by the Trump administration becomes law. By 2026, the number of people killed by Trumpcare could grow to approximately 29,000 in that year alone.

And this needless death and suffering is being inflicted to pay for upper-class tax cuts that are the bill’s raison d’etre. 

It is indeed nearly impossible to overstate how disgusting this bill is:

The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the American Health Care Act describes, in dry budgetary language, a social catastrophe. The bill would deprive 14 million American citizens of their health insurance next year, a number that would rise to 24 million by the end of the decade. It is a proposal that could only be enacted by a party in the grips of an combination of ideological and partisan fanaticism unfathomable to most of the world, and even to most Americans.

The changes Trumpcare would impose upon the health-care system are easy to understand. It is, quite simply, a redistribution bill. It would reduce taxes on the rich, and thus reduce the amount of subsidies for coverage for people who can’t obtain it through their job or Medicare. By 2026, CBO finds, the average subsidy would be about half as large. But the cut would not be distributed evenly. Middle- to upper-middle class customers buying insurance, especially young and healthy ones, would get larger subsidies. Poor, sick, and old customers would get enormous cuts in their subsidy levels. CBO has a graph showing the bill’s effect on Americans who make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

In addition to the obvious, every reporter who determined that Hillary Clinton’s email server management was the issue voters most needed to know about in 2016 should be deeply ashamed of themselves right now.

“Tell the Truth, George. It’s the Easiest Thing to Remember.”

[ 90 ] March 13, 2017 |

Screenshot_4Above: Republican health care policy, 1948-present

Lest you be complacent about TrumpCare’s potential passage, I would consider this:

“If you ask someone to give up something, there will be resentment,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health. But, he added, “If that claims my congressional career, so be it. It will be worth it to me to have effected this change.”

On its own terms, I can’t quibble with the logic. I don’t find the argument that it would have been politically better for the Democrats not to pass the ACA very plausible, but even if it was true it’s not an argument against the decision — you win majorities so that you can do stuff. The fact that the end Burgess is willing to sacrifice his political career is to take away health care from poor and working-class and middle-class people to pay for a massive upper-class tax cut is reprehensible, but we know what Republicans are at this point. They could do this.

To return to our discussion of earlier today, I really, really don’t understand how at this late date anyone could see any political value in pretending to believe that Republicans fundamentally share the health care goals of Democrats. Occasional bouts of candor aside, the Republican strategy (especially from the White House) will be to use an avalanche of buzzwords to suggest that nothing will change for the worse. Pretending that Republicans have ever wanted to pass anything like the ACA just plays into the hands of this argument. The Democratic counterargument has to be that TrumpCare represents what Republican health care policy has always been: that the federal government should not make efforts to ensure the uninsured because the money would be better spent on upper-class tax cuts. Pretending that Republicans and Democrats share the same goals but just differ on the means plays into the fraud.

Maybe during the process that led to the ACA this pretense was necessary to reassure marginal Democrats in the Senate, I dunno — Obama and Reid got it passed so I’m not going to quibble. I’m not talking about what they did inside, they did what they had to do, I’m talking about now, from now, here and now. The claim that the ACA, or anything like the ACA, has ever been supported by national Republicans or conservatives is false, and invoking the false claim is also terrible politics. Now is a time for drawing clear distinctions. The truth isn’t always the best politics but it is this time.

The Heritage Plan Was Paul Ryan’s Wet Dream And Was Nothing Like the Affordable Care Act

[ 105 ] March 13, 2017 |


Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh please make it stop:

Republicans know all of this. They know it because the ACA is actually the conservative, market-based alternative to single-payer. It was essentially was the Heritage Foundation’s alternative to Hillary Clinton’s 1993 healthcare plan. It became the basis of Romneycare, the plan backed and enacted by the 2012 Republican nominee for president. It’s the Republican alternative to single-payer.

No no no no no no no no no no. This is all grossly misinforming readers of the Washington Monthly.

First of all, let’s be clear about what the Heritage Plan was. It was a plan to end Medicaid, Medicare, and most employer-based insurance and replace it all with threadbare, not-very-generously subsidized catastrophic plans. In other words, the Heritage Plan represents what the Freedom Caucus wants to do, and is radically different from the Affordable Care Act. The only significant similarly between the two plans is the penalty for not carrying insurance, but despite the outsize significance this feature took on because the neoconfederate constitutional case that was ginned up against the ACA focused on it doesn’t make the plans similar in any important way. The mandate was hardly some extraordinary innovation on the part of the Heritage Foundation — it just represents the banal fact that preventing death spirals in insurance markets requires some mix of carrots and sticks so that insurance pools are reasonably balanced.

Portraying what Paul Ryan would ideally like to do to the Affordable Care Act as what he’s seeking to destroy requires piling two tons of bullshit onto the phrase “based on.” How the shell game works is that you quickly shuffle from the Heritage Plan to two very different ones that are, unlike the Heritage Plan, unrepresentative of the views of national Republicans. The 1993 Chafee proposal is more like the ACA than the Heritage Plan, although it was still very different (no Medicaid expansion.) But more to the point it was a decoy proposed by a nominal Republican, and tells us exactly as much about Republican preferences on health care policy as Chafee’s proposal to enact a national ban on handguns tells us about Republican preferences on gun control. The health care bill signed by Mitt Romney is more like the ACA than the Heritage Plan, but again plans passed by supermajorities of Massachusetts Democrats tell us absolutely nothing about what health care policy national Republicans favor. The only internal battle within the Republican Party over what to do about the uninsured is about whether it should be “nothing” or “less than nothing.” You have to be gullible in the extreme to think that what they pretend they’re willing to support when there’s a chance Democrats might pass comprehensive health care reform is in any way meaningful.

The non-imaginary Heritage Plan is, in fact, a very useful guide to Republican health care policy goals. It explains why Paul Ryan has proposed to replace Medicare with a voucher system. It explains why he’s now trying to destroy Medicaid. It explains why Republicans initially wanted to fund their attack on the ACA by eliminating the tax deduction for employer-based insurance. (To be clear, there would be nothing wrong with this if the idea was to replace employer-based insurance with a combination of expanded public insurance and a more regulated and subsidized private market; needless to say, this has never been what Republicans have in mind.) It explains why Ryan thinks that the question of whether a plan reduces or increases the number of people without insurance is a “beauty contest.” To use the Heritage Plan to argue that Republicans really secretly wanted to pass something lie the Affordable Care Act is utterly perverse. And to call the ACA “conservative” is imagining a political spectrum that is rather radically different than the actually existing American one.

Unlike most of the people who repeat this epic howler, Atkins’s purpose doesn’t seem to be to describe the ACA as essentially worthless. But his claims are not true, and they’re not true in a very pernicious way — most importantly, it’s vastly too generous to Republicans. In the current context, it implies that TrumpCare is just a minor variation on the ACA. While it doesn’t go as far as the Heritage Plan would have, it would destroy the individual market in health insurance, make insurance worse in general, and effectively destroy Medicaid. Even when well-intended, flagrant untruths about the Heritage Plan and Republican health care policy preferences play right into Paul Ryan’s hands.

[H/T Murc]

He’ll Fit Right In With Jeffrey Lord

[ 44 ] March 13, 2017 |


CNN continues to help people fail upward:

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza is joining CNN Politics as a reporter and editor at large, with a digital presence and an on-air role.

Cillizza is leaving behind the blog known as The Fix he built at the Post over more than a decade. The Fix has since expanded and now includes a team of bloggers and editors. Cillizza will also be ending his role as a contributor at MSNBC when he joins CNN.

The fact that this guy had a sinecure at America’s “liberal” news network tells you a lot about cable news. At least my WaPo subscription money will no longer be going to support the Cavalcade of EMAILS!

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