The Health Care Implosion

The Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare is in deep deep trouble. It does not have support from the conservative wing and has fierce opposition from moderates and liberals. It is polling at 57-16 against and has majority opposition from conservatives. The most recent CBO analysis indicates that it will reduce the deficit less while still leaving 24 million uninsured. And Trump, demonstrating the great deal-making ability he boasted about, has told the GOP that if they don’t pass it, he’s done with healthcare reform and will just leave Obamacare in place.

Why is this going so wrong? After passing dozens of repeals over the last eight years, why is the GOP in this morass of pushing a healthcare that no one likes? I think the answer is that they’re trying to deal with 2012’s problems instead of 2017’s.

Let me take a step back. As the Iraq War went south and many people demanded that we leave, I pointed that leaving Iraq was not the same as not having invaded it to begin with. Whether the invasion was right or wrong, there was a mess there that was going to get worse if we left. And indeed, our departure set the stage for the rise of ISIS.

We’re in the same place now. Repealing Obamacare is not the same as not having passed it in the first place. The last chance the GOP had for that, realistically, was 2012. Now that Obamacare is ingrained into the system, simply repealing it — even if that were possible — would be a nightmare. Insurance companies have planned out for Obamacare being there. So have individuals. We’d be talking about a major disruption of a two trillion dollar economy.

As a result, the AHCA finds itself trying to serve too many masters: giving the GOP base the instant gratification of an Obamacare repeal while not getting rid of the Obamacare provisions people like; cutting Obamacare taxes while not exploding the deficit; enacting a long-overdue Medicaid reform while trying to cut Medicaid expansion; putting together something that can pass by reconciliation. And the result is this unpopular, unconservative, hastily-revised Frankenstein mess of a proposal. It will only accelerate the collapse of Obamacare while giving the Democrats the ability to blame Republicans for the collapse of their Frankenstein bill.

The GOP needs to let the AHCA die. Maybe just pass the Medicaid reform, which they could probably get the votes for. The short-term political hit will be fierce. But then they could take a year to put together a reform package that deals with the healthcare system we have now, Obamacare and all, not the system we had before Obamacare. The end result would be a package that is much more palatable to conservatives, addresses the damage Obamacare has done to the system and makes insurance more affordable.

Put it together, have hearings, go through the normal process. And then dare the Democrats to filibuster it. At the very least, they’ll have something to run on in 2018 or 2020. And at best, they’ll pass it and fix the mess Obama handed to them.

The Gorsuch Fight

The hearings for Gorsuch have gone about as well as Republicans could have hoped. He was knowledgable, forthright and responded to questions well. The Democrats have dug through his 2500+ decisions and found a few to make some hay of, but it’s not really going anywhere. So naturally they’re planning to filibuster the nomination.

Look, let’s be clear. If this filibuster happens, it has absolutely nothing to do with Gorsuch. It’s an angry reaction to the Republicans not allowing Obama to fill the seat compounded by the seemingly certain Clinton victory being snatched away. The Democrats had such dreams for replacing Scalia with a big-time liberal and destroying gun rights, crushing federalism and demolishing free speech.

I understand the anger but I think a filibuster would be tactically foolish. Gorsuch is replacing Scalia, a conservative. There is a very real possibility, over the next four years, that Trump will have to replace one of the liberals and will try to replace them with a true rock-head like Pryor. That is the hill they want to die on, not this one. The gripping hand is that, with a bad 2018 election slate, they may not be able to stop a future nominee. The Republicans could, potentially, have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. But they have to weigh that against filibustering Gorsuch, provoking the Republicans to nuke the filibuster and then having, say, Ginsburg replaced with someone way worse than Gorsuch.

But … I really doubt the thinking goes that far. As far as the Democrats are concerned, this is a “stolen” judicial seat. And so they will stamp their foot until the roof comes down.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Two new reports on the Trump-Russia thing today.

This morning, the AP revealed that Paul Manafort, Trump’s first campaign manager, failed to disclose that he had worked for a Russian oligarch. The purpose of his job, according to the AP, was to advance the interest of Vladimir Putin:

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

Manafort, you may remember, was forced out of the Trump team when it was revealed that he had taken Russian money to lobby on behalf of pro-Russia factions in the Ukraine. This was one of the first revelations that made people question Trump’s ties to Russia. The revelation that his campaigning on behalf of Putin goes back even further is disturbing. If there’s any fire to all this smoke on Russia, Manafort will be where you’ll find it.

Tonight, however, the news got even worse:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.

The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.

Now, caveat time. All the sources that CNN sites are anonymous. Moreover, even if they are telling the truth, all this means is that the FBI is investigating these claims, not that they’ve found anything. At the moment, this is simply more smoke.

There have been allegations that the intelligence community has become politicized over this. Even though the loudest accuser is Roger Stone, who admitted to being in communication with the Wikileaks hackers, I’m not inclined to dismiss this line of criticism. It’s certainly possible that’s what we’re seeing.

Which is why we need to end the rumor mongering and put together a independent commission to look into this. To look into all of it. The current investigation — through the House Intelligence Committee — is only muddying the waters further. If Trump people cooperated with Russia to win the election, that’s a very serious scandal. And if the intelligence community is exaggerating this to undermine Trump, that’s a very serious scandal. Time to bring this all out in the open.

Breaking Up the Order

I’ve been toying with a post on Trump’s foreign policy so far but it keeps running aground on the problem that Trumps doesn’t seem to have a foreign policy apart from pissing off all our allies and sucking up to Russia. In the past few weeks:

  • Trump rejected free trade ideals at the G-20, causing a major rift between us and our major economic partners. I understand being opposed to TPP or even NAFTA. But the principle of free trade is something we should commit to whole-heartedly.
  • Trump hurled baseless accusations that the British GCHQ wire-tapped Trump tower at Obama’s behest, an accusation so stupid the Administration eventually had to apologize for it. I have no doubt the British spy on us, just as we spy on them. But you can’t just run around randomly accusing our allies of spying on you because you misunderstood a Breitbart post. In hearings yesterday, multiple members of the intelligence community indicated there was absolutely no basis to Trump’s accusations.
  • The Secretary of State will reportedly skip out on a critical NATO in order to meet with Russia.
  • FBI Directory Comey indicated that they are investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia (not ties between Trump himself and Russia; a critical distinction). Trump responded with his usual blarney.
  • Trump had a bad meeting with Angel Merkel, head of one of our key military and economic partners.
  • He had an awkward meeting with the Irish PM.
  • Has still not filled many key positions at the State Department, including critical ambassadorships.

None of this is particularly lethal to the country, of course. But it betrays an Administration that remains inept, amateurish and unable to learn.

We’re two months into the Trump years. I understand he’s an outsider but so far we are seeing little indication that he’s learning how this works or has any inclination of learning how it works. I raised this same criticism during the campaign: my problem with Trump was less that he was ignorant about government but that he showed no inclination to learn. And we’re still seeing that he has no inclination to learn.

And it also exposes, yet again, the hypocrisy of at least half the criticism of Obama over the last eight years. If half of this stuff had happened under Obama, the Right Wing would be foaming at the mouth about how he was turning his back on our allies and undoing seven decades of building a functional peaceful prosperous international order.

(The hypocrisy goes way beyond that, of course. We heard for years about Obama’s expensive trips but now hear nothing about Trump spending twice as much to go to Mar-A-Lago every weekend. Ivanka is getting a security clearance and an office despite not having a position; you can imagine the fury if Chelsea had done the same. Pundits raged about Obama’s golfing and have nothing to say on Trump’s golfing. These things didn’t matter so much to me — any time a President spends on a golf course is time he’s not spending interfering with our lives. But some consistency … any consistency .. would be nice.)

Gorsuch Hearings Start Today

The confirmation hearings for Gorsuch will start today. So far, I have been impressed. I doubt I will agree with him on everything, but he seems to have a sharp mind and a strong judicial philosophy.

The Democrats are in a bind here because their base wants them to hold their breath until they turn blue but they don’t really have a reason to oppose him. They’ve been trying to go through his decisions and even some of the legal arguments he made as a lawyer but nothing has stuck. I expect some hysterics. But ultimately, I expect him to be confirmed. Say 65-35.

All that wolf crying…

Is not really going to go anywhere, and that is because as many of us that saw the hysteria sans any evidence pointed out: it was all bullshit. There is no way that if this story even had an inkling of a chance of being true – based on evidence, that is, not the pipe dreams of a bunch of idiots with an agenda to deflect from the real issues – that we wouldn’t have been given the facts by now. The democrats play dirty. They care not a damn if they destroy the country if it keeps them in power, so if they had proof, that proof would already have been released by their operatives in the deep state bureaucracy.

This Russia thing was started as a distraction from the revelations of how corrupt the DNC and the Clinton campaign were, and it got legs after the people in the Obama administration that tapped the Trump campaign – to find dirt no doubt – started pretending there was something going on there. We now know that the democrat delusion and their knee jerk reaction after losing an election they felt certain they had already stolen, was all bullshit. Oh sure, they are still talking about Trump being a Russian stooge, despite the fact that unlike them he has been though with Russia and is pro fracking – something that impacts the economy of Russia which is mostly centered around the sale of oil and natural gas far more than anything we could do otherwise in a real negative way – because the objective here has from the start been to deligitimize his election in the eyes of the low information voter. The usual dnc operatives with bylines were more than happy to go along with the bullshit because they too wanted some magical event to give them president Hillary. After the attempts to coerce the electoral college, convince people that we should suddenly look at the popular vote and not the legal election, and a bunch of other madness (remember this doozy?) all went nowhere and the left was left unable to steal the election, they decided that they needed to undermine the presidency.

As I pointed out before, only to have our resident trolls all go batshit on me for daring to say so: nothing will hurt the left more than Trump being successful at rolling back the nanny state, firing up the economy, and doing foreign policy different than the cock suckery of the Obama years. Any success is damaging to that moron Obama’s legacy (and those that defended it), and more importantly, to the left’s dogma. The left wants to believe they are the experts. The only ones that know what is right and how to make things work. Note I said want to believe, because any observation quickly should dissuade anyone but the most partisan or stupid person from any such delusion. Hence that Krugnuts prediction about economic doom turns into real stories like this, this, and this. The people that grow wealth all feel that things are going to get better. Even the ones that spout idiotic leftist shit all the time.

And do you remember Obama telling us we couldn’t drill ourselves out of high gas prices? Well, despite his administration’s best efforts, it is precisely the drilling – well, fracking – done in the US and Canada, that has driven down the price of oil, while preventing hostile countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and even that leftist tropical paradise of Venezuela from making like bandits at our expense. What about all that bullshit bracket filling during March madness? I sure as hell don’t miss that crap. And so on.

Anyway, back on topic. The left is desperate to make you believe only they are qualified to be in charge. hence this idiotic play to deligitimize the Trump presidency, of course for many of us it feels more like this. Me, I hope these morons keep at it. Be hysterical idiots. Throw tantrums and act all bitchy. Cry wolf. Sure low information voters might fall for it now, but more and more people are realizing what’s going on. The fact that the dnc operatives with bylines destroyed any credibility they might have had left alone is a major victory for freedom loving people. But the left refusing to accept their fantasy world has run into the real one, is priceless. This is gonna be great to watch. Pass the popcorn please.

Chuck Berry RIP

Damn, this sucks. From the article:

Chuck Berry, the singer, songwriter and guitar great who practically defined rock music with his impeccably twangy hits “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Memphis,” “My Ding-a-Ling” and “Sweet Little Sixteen,” has died. He was 90.

The singer/songwriter, whose classic “Johnny B. Goode” was chosen by Carl Sagan to be included on the golden record of Earth Sounds and Music launched with Voyager in 1977, died Saturday afternoon, St. Charles County Police Department confirmed. The cause of death was not revealed.

Maybe I am getting older and thus some influential people that had an impact on my life now passing away make it feel so, but I keep wondering why so many greats are dropping like flies.

Budget Blueprint Out

Trump released a blueprint of his budget for discretionary spending today. It includes a big increase in military spending but balances it with massive cuts to other agencies, particularly the EPA, NIH and HUD. Real cuts, not “slowing growth” cuts.

There is little chance that the Congress will pass this budget. In the end, they will come up with their own plan. There is a lot that alarms me. The big cut to NIH would be a blow to public health and scientific research, including the research we need to deal with things like Ebola. Cuts to EPA sound good but unless you’re also cutting regulations, that just means longer delays in EPA evaluations and clearances. The budget also guts climate science since we apparently don’t have to care anymore.

Other cuts, like HUD and that National Endowment for the Arts, seem more reasonable. The gripping hand is that, with big increases in military spending and no entitlement reform, even Trump’s budget does nothing to get our debt under control.

Of course, the Left, being the Left, has decided to focus their criticism as stupidly as possible. They are claiming that Trump is canceling Meals on Wheels.

Are they right? Is Trump canceling Meals on Wheels? No he isn’t.

One of the cuts in the budget is longer overdue cutting of the Community Development Block Grant Program. The CDBG is a $3 billion program that ostensibly goes to developing poor communities but mostly goes to graft, corruption and waste. It blows massive amounts of money on wasteful projects, sees a huge chunk disappear into administrative costs and, unsurprisingly, sends most of its funds to wealthy communities around DC that can, frankly, fund their God-damned white elephants.

(Note: this is typical of programs that purport to develop communities up to and including the grandaddy of all “community development” pork barrels — public subsidies for sports stadiums. It’s odd how often governments decide that the best way to develop a community is to throw money at their rich friends.)

With such a juicy slice of government pork-barrel spending in danger, the Democrats had to find some way to save it. And so they scoured the budget until they found something. It turns out that one of the many things the CDBG program gives money to is Meals on Wheels.

Meals on Wheels is a great program. But their national program only gets 3% of their funding from government grants. Almost all of the rest of their funding comes from private sources. And a huge amount of its costs are covered by volunteers. So even if Meals on Wheels never saw another red cent of federal money, they would still be able to do almost everything they do right now.

This nonsense is typical of attempts to cut government spending. The federal government does not run a Federal Cat Kicking Program or a National Dog Beating Program. Almost all of its programs have noble intentions. Or at least noble labels. So even if a program is wasteful, it purports to fight illiteracy or feed the hungry or build communities. The people who benefit from a federal program — in the case of CDBG, that would be rich DC-area governments — are very invested in making sure it stays funded. By contrast, the people pay for it — that would be the rest of us us — only see a tiny part of their paychecks go to that particular program. And so Trump’s proposal to kill the wasteful CDBG program are cast as, “DONALD TRUMP IS TRYING TO STARVE SENIORS AND THIS PROGRAM ONLY COSTS YOU TWO CENTS A DAY!!” And, of course, our worthless media repeat that lie until the program is saved.

This is why we ended up with the sequester. Because the alternative to a dumb misguided across-the-board spending cut was no spending cut at all. Trump would be far better off simply setting a cap on how much discretionary spending he will accept before a veto and then let Congress squabble about where the money’s going. And if the Left really cares about Meals on Wheels, they can pony up another 3% of its funding themselves.