Friday, March 24, 2017

The Art Of The Dud

Heh.

They blinked.

In a major setback for the Republicans’ years-long effort to repeal Obamacare, GOP leaders were forced to delay a House vote planned for Thursday as negotiations continued around the legislation. The delay comes after the conservative hardliners who have been resisting the legislation emerged from a meeting with President Donald Trump with no clear deal to win over their votes.

According to various reports, the floor vote on the American Health Care Act will be pushed until at least Friday, with a meeting with the full House GOP conference slated for Thursday evening, followed by a procedural vote to make way for the final bill.

As the White House negotiated Thursday with members of the conservative hardline House Freedom Caucus, more and more members of Republicans’ moderate flank came out of the woodwork to say they oppose the repeal bill due to the rightward direction in which it was heading.

The Republicans have the House, they have the Senate, they have the White House, and according to Himself, he’s the greatest deal-maker in history.  They have been talking about repealing Obamacare for exactly seven years since the day it was signed into law and they can’t even get their own right-wing to fall in line.

And when they do, the Senate will take one look at it, hear the hoofbeats of ten thousand Democrats ready to run against each and every one of them who voted to take back everything that everyone — even Trump voters — like about Obamacare and say Are You Fucking Kidding Me and run away from it like it was a toddler with a paint gun.

Oh, and when this miserable excuse for legislation finally screws itself into the ground, guess who they’re going to blame: Yep, you got it.  Obama.

Go on, have an extra helping of schadenfreude.  They’ll make more.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lies And Punishment

The House is going to vote today on the GOP’s attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, but chances are pretty good that the bill will fail to get enough votes to pass.  If it does pass, it will be a watered-down mish-mosh of a fustercluck that will leave millions of people without insurance and those that have it will have to pay more while the rich get a nice tax cut.

Aside from the damage it will do to the American people, it will also be a really bad thing for the Republicans.  And it doesn’t pass, it will be a really bad thing for the Republicans.

Josh Barro explains:

For years, Republicans promised lower premiums, lower deductibles, lower co-payments, lower taxes, lower government expenditure, more choice, the restoration of the $700 billion that President Barack Obama heartlessly cut out of Medicare because he hated old people, and (in the particular case of the Republican who recently became president) “insurance for everybody” that is “much less expensive and much better” than what they have today.

They were lying. Over and over and over and over, Republicans lied to the American public about healthcare.

It was impossible to do all of the things they were promising together, and they knew it.

Then they unexpectedly won an election and had to face the question of whether they would break all of their promises — or only some of them.

If the AHCA passes, Republicans will have delivered on a couple of promises: lower taxes (mostly for people who make over $200,000 a year) and lower public expenditure (mostly because of Medicaid cuts, the main reason the bill could leave 24 million more Americans uninsured). All the rest of the promises will be broken.

And if they don’t pass the AHCA, well, then they’ll have broken all of the promises.

Either way, Republicans will have to face an angry electorate in 2018 and 2020 that did not get what it was promised. The exposure of Republican healthcare lies will do grave damage to the party, and that damage will be richly deserved.

The one thing that the GOP has going for them is short-term memory loss on the part of the electorate.  If the bill fails to pass, Obamacare will still be in place, people will not lose their health insurance, and the Republicans will move on to something else.  They will find another distraction or two — hey, what about Benghazi!? — and by the time the 2018 mid-terms come around they’re going to campaign on — wait for it — if you like your healthcare, you can keep it, assuming they bring it up at all.

The reason the Republicans can get away with lying about so many things is not because they are good at it or that the voters are so forgiving.  It’s because it’s what is expected of them and it’s no big deal when they do it.

Short Takes

Five dead in attack outside U.K. Parliament.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says there’s “more than circumstantial evidence” on Trump/Russia connection.

GOP healthcare bill in doubt.

Tough questions for Neil Gorsuch on Bush torture policy.

Arctic winter sea ice drops to lowest level ever recorded.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Either Way You Look At It, You Lose

Trump told recalcitrant Republicans that if they don’t vote for the yet-again revised version of their healthcare bill, they will lose their seats in 2018.

Trump spent Tuesday selling the Republican health-care overhaul to skeptical House members, warning his party that failure would endanger his legislative agenda and their own political careers.

But more than two dozen GOP lawmakers remained firmly opposed to the legislation amid the high-stakes persuasion campaign led by Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — more than enough to block the bill ahead of a planned Thursday vote.

[…]

In a morning address to a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, Trump used both charm and admonishment as he made his case, reassuring skittish members that they would gain seats in Congress if the bill passed.

He singled out Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, which has led the right-wing opposition to the bill.

“I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,’ ” Trump said, according to several lawmakers who attended the meeting. “Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.”

I’ve got news for you: if you vote to pass this turd of a repeal/replace bill and if 26 million people, a lot of them who are poor and who voted for Trump, lose their health insurance or find out that they got screwed, you’re going to lose, too.

And you right-wingers who are holding out because any kind of help from anyone is a violation of God’s will — don’t you be getting healthcare if Jesus means for you to die — will also find out that there are a lot more people who would rather live than take their chances with Bible-lotto.

I suppose it doesn’t occur to Trump that having him campaign against a GOP candidate in 2018 might actually help them.

Short Takes

North Korea missile test fails.

Report: Laptop ban sparked by ISIS threat.

Paul Manafort hid a $750,000 payment from Ukrainian lawmaker.

Tweaks to GOP healthcare bill are panned.

Dow Jones begins to sink after figuring out Trump promises are falling flat.

Happy birthday, CLW.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Insurance Won’t Cover Stupid

Via LGM and the Atlanta Journal Constitution we meet a young Republican who disdains any idea of help from the guvamint.

Blake Yelverton is taking a break with a burger that doesn’t cut any corners. Cheese and bacon and everything. He’s 23, a burly young man with a big red beard, and he works on his father’s cow farm.

“I don’t believe it’s the federal government’s job to provide health care,” he said. “It’s communism, socialism anyway.”

Yelverton hopes Trump trashes the whole thing, and he’s not too fond of the GOP plan being discussed in Congress either. “They’re doing a lesser evil of Obamacare,” he said.

His insurance?

“I’m on my parents’ plan,” he said.

So, Yelverton, it turns out, benefits from Obamacare. That’s because the law allows parents to keep kids on their insurance until age 26 — a widely-popular element of Barack Obama’s signature health law that Republicans intend to keep in their replacement plan.

Confronted with that information, he pauses for a moment.

“I haven’t been to the doctor in four or five years,” he said.

Unfortunately for this guy, even Obamacare won’t cover an extreme case of a lack of self-awareness.  But we’ll be sure to send flowers.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

24 Million

That’s a big number no matter how you slice it.  It’s about 90% of the population of Canada.  It’s also the number of people who are estimated to lose healthcare coverage if the GOP has their way.  (Not to worry, Canada; you have a real healthcare system that works.)

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.

Or, to paint a picture of it:

The initial response to this news from the GOP is “well, everybody knows that the CBO is partisan.”  Except it’s not; and the head of the CBO is a Republican appointed by Tom Price, the Secretary of HHS.

The next thing that will happen is that the Republicans will come out and tell us how much money this will save the country by getting rid of Obamacare, especially by giving tax cuts to rich people because we all know that they will invest it in jobs to hire people.  Except they never do, and the people that they say they’re going to hire will either be too sick to get a job or dead.

I thoroughly expect Trump to go around the country saying how wonderful this new plan is and telling his base that this is why they voted for him; to free them from the tyranny of having affordable healthcare and that no one within the sound of his voice will be burdened with freedom-crushing Obamacare, and only the other guy will be sick, but then he deserves it because he voted for Hillary.

The sad part — aside from the 24 million people who will lose their healthcare insurance — is that no matter what happens, the Republican base will still keep churning out the votes for the Republicans.  Because that is the most important thing to them.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

They Have Had Seven Years

The Republicans have been talking about and voting on repealing and replacing Obamacare for almost seven years now.  They’ve held news conferences and election campaigns to demonize it and then promise to replace it.  Now they’ve come out with their plan, hoping to unite their base and the country and show the world that they can really govern.

Well, to be fair, they did bring a lot of people from all over the political spectrum, but not in the way they hoped.

Republican efforts to revise the Affordable Care Act met with widespread resistance Tuesday from conservatives in and out of Congress, moderates in the Senate and key industry stakeholders, casting doubt on the plan’s chances just one day after House GOP leaders released it.

The most imminent and serious threat to the plan crafted by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) was the growing backlash from conservative lawmakers and powerful outside groups who argue that the draft is nothing more than “Obamacare Lite,” a disparaging reference to the former president’s signature 2010 domestic achievement.

In short, they have had seven years to come up with something, and this is the best that they could come up with?  It reads like some kid who tried to write a ten-page history paper on the school bus the morning the assignment is due.

The best part is that the right-wingers are in complete revolt against it.  Which means that it’s not going anywhere.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

As Planned

Getting screwed by the rich is a pre-existing condition for the poor.

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation published Wednesday of a GOP proposal to rework the Affordable Care Acts subsidies into tax credits available to everyone illustrates how the plan, which was leaked last week, would represent a major loss for lower-income people and older Americans. Those higher on the income scale stand to gain under such a plan.

That’s why the Republicans hated Obamacare; it treated poor people equally.  (Well, yeah, there was that other reason, too.)

Monday, February 27, 2017

No Shit, Sherlock

Via TPM:

Trump told a bipartisan group of governors at a White House reception Monday morning that GOP tax reform would have to wait for lawmakers to move on repealing Obamacare, cautioning that, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” Trump said.

For health policy experts and Democrats who spent the last eight years overhauling the nation’s health care system in the face of GOP intransigence, Trump’s admission that health care is hard dripped with irony. Republicans, in the mean time, voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but made little progress on settling on what their replacement would look like, a conundrum that is haunting them now.

You mean a 3,000 page law that the Republicans said in 2010 was unbelievably complex can’t be repealed by passing a law that says “The Affordable Care Act is hereby repealed”?  Who could have known, besides everybody?

Making It Up As They Go

The Washington Post reports on the confusion and division in the White House over Obamacare.

A meeting Friday afternoon between President Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, his former rival in the GOP primaries, had no set agenda. But Kasich came armed with one anyway: his hope to blunt drastic changes to the nation’s health-care system envisioned by some conservatives in Washington.

Over the next 45 minutes, according to Kasich and others briefed on the session, the governor made his pitch while the president eagerly called in several top aides and then got Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on the phone. At one point, senior adviser Jared Kushner reminded his father-in-law that House Republicans are sketching out a different approach to providing access to coverage. “Well, I like this better,” Trump replied, according to a Kasich adviser.

[…]

While leaving most of the detail work to lawmakers, top White House aides are divided on how dramatic an overhaul effort the party should pursue. And the biggest wild card remains the president himself, who has devoted only a modest amount of time to the grinding task of mastering health-care policy but has repeatedly suggested that his sweeping new plan is nearly complete.

This conundrum will be on full display Monday, when Trump meets at the White House with some of the nation’s largest health insurers. The session, which will include top executives from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Cigna and Humana, is not expected to produce a major policy announcement. But it will provide an opportunity for one more important constituency to lobby the nation’s leader on an issue he has said is at the top of his agenda.

Democrats and their allies are already mobilizing supporters to hammer lawmakers about the possible impact of rolling back the ACA, holding more than 100 rallies across the country Saturday. And a new analysis for the National Governors Association that modeled the effect of imposing a cap on Medicaid spending — a key component of House Republicans’ strategy — provided Democrats with fresh ammunition because of its finding that the number of insured Americans could fall significantly.

They have no idea what the hell they’re doing.  All they know is that they hate Obamacare because it’s Obamacare but they haven’t any clue as to what they’re going to do about it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

18 Million Losers

From the New York Times:

Eighteen million people could lose their insurance within a year and individual insurance premiums would shoot upward if Congress repealed major provisions of the Affordable Care Act while leaving other parts in place, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.

A report by the office sharply increases pressure on Republicans to come up with a comprehensive plan to replace the health care law. It is likely to doom the idea of voting to dismantle the 2010 health law almost immediately, with an effective date set sometime in the future while Congress works toward a replacement.

If nothing followed the gutting of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the budget office said, 32 million people could lose their health insurance by 2026, and premiums in the individual insurance market could double. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, showed the unease of some in her party when she said that repealing the health care law and delaying a replacement could send insurance markets into “a death spiral.”

As far as the Republicans in Congress are concerned, 18 million people losing their health insurance is very small price to pay in order to be able to give Barack Obama the finger.  Besides, most of those people are takers, anyway, and they don’t deserve to have the same kind of health insurance that they enjoy.  So there.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Reading

Obama’s Parting Words — George Packer in The New Yorker.

After eight years, few lines from Barack Obama’s Presidential speeches stay in mind. For all his literary and oratorical gifts, he didn’t coin the kinds of phrases that stick with repetition, as if his distaste for politics generally—the schmoozing, the fakery—extended to the fashioning of slogans. He rarely turned to figurative language, and he never stooped to “Read my lips,” or even “Ask not what your country can do for you.” His most memorable phrase, “Yes we can,” spoke to the audacious odds of his own run for the Presidency, not a clear political vision. He sought to persuade by explaining and reasoning, not by simplifying or dramatizing—a form of respect that the citizenry didn’t always deserve.

This aversion to rhetoric, like Obama’s aloofness from Congress, is a personal virtue that hurt him politically. It’s connected to his difficulty in sustaining public support for his program and his party. Even the President’s hero, Abraham Lincoln, was a master of the poetic sound bite.

Obama’s farewell address from Chicago last week was one of the very best speeches of his Presidency. He had one overriding message: that American democracy is threatened—by economic inequality, by racial division, and, above all, by the erosion of democratic habits and institutions. Its urgency gave the speech an unusual rhetorical punch: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life”; “If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves”; “We sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.” Lines like these might not prove deathless, but because of their bluntness, and because the times are desperate, they hit hard.

Politicians are always letting the public off the hook—it might be the most unforgivably dishonest thing they do. Obama was more candid than most, reminding Americans that the quality of our democracy depends on us—on our capacity to reason and to empathize, our attachment to facts, our willingness to get our hands dirty even when the political game seems sordid or futile. The key word of the speech was “citizen,” which Obama called “the most important office in a democracy,” one that he’ll embrace in his post-Presidency. His exhortations and implications of blame were nonpartisan: conservatives might have heard their denial of science called out, while liberals might have been stung by the allusion to fair-weather activism. Whites and non-whites alike were urged to imagine inhabiting a different person’s skin.

Perhaps there was a degree of self-blame, too. For all the achievements that Obama is able to claim—from bringing health insurance to twenty million Americans to building a framework for slowing climate change—he couldn’t deliver a healthy democracy. He didn’t have the political skill to advance his abiding vision of a United States of America. Maybe no leader could have, but Obama’s opponents made sure of his failure.

Most Presidential farewell addresses are quickly forgotten. Hardly anyone knows that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both gave one, as did Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Those which endure are memorable for their warnings. When the new republic was still taking shape, in 1796, George Washington cautioned against domestic factionalism and foreign entanglements. At the height of the Cold War, in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower described a new “military-industrial complex” and a “scientific-technological élite” that were taking over public policy. Obama’s warning in Chicago—owing to its context, ten days before the Inauguration of President Donald Trump—felt even more dire. He quoted from Washington’s address, but not its most obviously relevant passage, on the danger of partisan demagoguery: “It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.”

If the President had quoted these words, he would have come close to naming the greatest threat to American democracy: his successor. Obama mentioned Trump only once, in passing. His aim was broader than one man, and his respect for the office kept the President from making it personal. (His chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, said, “If there’s one democratic norm that he can protect even as all others are shredded, it’s the peaceful transfer of power.”) Instead, the President-elect haunted the farewell address like a spirit too malevolent to be named.

The following day, Trump materialized in the flesh, in Trump Tower, for his first press conference in nearly six months. He was even looser and cockier than usual. He insulted media organizations by name. He reversed his avowed position on Russian interference in the American election, as casually and as brazenly as he had once reversed himself on President Obama’s citizenship. He relived the night of his victory, one more time. He revelled in his immunity from conflict-of-interest law. (“I didn’t know about that until three months ago, but it’s a nice thing to have.”) He disparaged his Vice-President, who was in attendance, for not being rich enough to benefit from the same immunity. He congratulated himself for turning down a two-billion-dollar deal, which looked like a cartoonish bribe, from an Emirati businessman. He pretended to disentangle himself from the prospect of non-stop corruption during his Presidency. He told his sons to take care of the family business while he’s away, or else.

All the while, a retinue of aides cheered and laughed like the nervous flunkies of a Mob capo. It was impossible not to feel that, for Trump, the Presidency means a supreme chance for payback, revenge for the humiliation that seems to be his constant fear.

This is the last week of the Obama Presidency. Historians will argue over its meaning and its merits. But, for democratic integrity, there’s no argument, no contest. Obama’s final speech wasn’t just a warning—it will stand as an emblem of what we have been and perhaps can be.

The Illegitimate President — Joan Walsh on John Lewis.

On the day more unconfirmed, and maybe unconfirmable, details came out about the intelligence community’s intensifying investigation into ties between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russian government, tensions in Washington, DC, spiked. Dozens of House Democrats poured out of a briefing by FBI director James Comey and other intelligence agency leaders obviously furious, though they couldn’t disclose what they heard in the classified briefing. Representative Maxine Waters of California walked out to reporters and spit fire: “It’s classified and I can’t tell you anything. But the FBI director has no credibility!”

A short time later, Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press released a remarkable clip of his recent interview with Representative John Lewis, which will air on his show Sunday. In his calm, thoughtful, deliberate way, Lewis channeled Waters’s rage—and opened a new front in the campaign against Trump.

Would Lewis look for ways to cooperate with Trump, Todd asked? “It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” Lewis told Todd. “I don’t plan to attend the inauguration. It will be the first one that I miss since I’ve been in Congress. You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.”

Todd seemed shocked. “That’s gonna send a big message to a lot of people in this country,” the Meet the Press moderator said.

“I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others,” Lewis replied calmly. “That’s not right. That’s not fair, that’s not the open Democratic process.”

Mic drop.

I’m not in the habit of trusting US intelligence agencies. I am in the habit of trusting Lewis. Right now progressive Democrats, including Senator Bernie Sanders, are hearing things from the intelligence agencies they are overwhemingly inclined to doubt, and yet they are reacting by at least demanding a bipartisan investigation into Russian interference with the election—and at most, like only Lewis so far, to say that Trump is not the “legitimate president.”

Will others follow? Representative Barbara Lee, another progressive stalwart, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that she agrees with Lewis. The sole opponent of the Afghanistan intervention, a stalwart foe of the Iraq war, Lee had already said she would boycott Trump’s inauguration, but she acknowledged that Lewis went beyond where she did. And then she went there.

One Democrat who stepped out to kneecap Lewis is President Obama’s former campaign manager David Axelrod. The CNN contributor told the network Friday night that “I’m not comfortable” with Lewis’s calling Trump “illegitimate,” adding, “The greatest triumph for Russia would be to legitimate their charges about our democracy. I worry about our institutions. I worry that we’re in this mad cycle of destruction. I understand the outrage. But where is this all going?”

Axelrod acknowledged that Trump was the number-one peddler of birtherism—but insisted that this bolstered his argument. “One of my great concerns about the president-elect is that I think sometimes he has disregard for our institutions and norms and that contributes to a weakening of our democracy,” he continued. “So, I just don’t want to see this constant churning that leads to kind of a reflexive reaction every time a president gets elected who we don’t like.”

Let me break this down for Axelrod, though he knows everything that I do about American politics, and then some. Republicans are the ones who have a “reflexive reaction” to Democratic presidents they don’t like: peddling birther garbage and obstructing Barack Obama, after obstructing, then impeaching, Bill Clinton. The last GOP president, George W. Bush, although he lost the popular vote (like Trump) and owed his presidency to the Supreme Court, nonetheless got Democratic backing for his education-reform push, his Medicare-drug legislation, his tax cuts, and even his Iraq War authorization. There was no “reflexive” attempt to undermine Bush. He brought greater opposition on himself, including GOP opposition, with his disastrous war of choice in Iraq, his bungling of the occupation, his shameful neglect of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and his passivity in the face of evidence that shady banking practices were going to crash the economy.

So I’m going to go with Lewis, Lee, and Waters over David Axelrod on this one. I don’t want to bring race into anything where it doesn’t matter, but I did happen to notice all three leaders are African-American. Maybe that’s a coincidence. Or maybe it means that people who’ve seen the worst of American injustice are trying to warn the rest of us when it’s coming for us again.

Charlie Pierce:

Well, they did it as quickly as their Senate colleagues did, but at least the House of Representatives drove in the coffin nails during the daylight hours. After a morning of debate that was little more than two sides talking out loud past each other, the House voted 227-198 in favor of the kabuki budget resolution shipped across the Capitol from the Senate, a document that exists primarily as a mechanism for killing the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process. They want what they want and have the votes to get what they want, and that’s the way it’s going to be down here for a while.

On Thursday night, Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, appeared at a televised town hall with Jake Tapper, and Ryan gave us all a preview of the various mendacities and inadequacies out of which his “bridge” from what we have now to whatever the Republicans finally devise will be built. It’s been seven years, and the answers are still fantastical (buy insurance across state lines), implausible (health-savings accounts!), total fakeouts (high-risk pools) and downright cruel (block-granting Medicaid back to the states).

As to the first, welcome to the Visa-MasterCard model of health insurance. As to the second, you, there, 52-year old unemployed steelworker, hope you put 200K away for chemotherapy instead of, you know, buying a house or eating dinner for your entire adult life. As to the third, high-risk pools will effectively bring back the pre-existing conditions nightmare, because no Republican legislator is going to vote to fund them at anywhere near the level at which they’ll need to be funded. (h/t Harold Pollack for pointing out the Tumulty piece.) And as to the last, all that’s going to get the country is some lovely paved roads leading to some Texas legislator’s fishing cabin.

The only real highlight came when a cancer survivor told Ryan that the ACA had saved his life and Ryan responded as though the guy were a waiter who’d mixed up his wine order.

But the cause of unspooling not merely the ACA, but a good part of the overall American healthcare system, went rolling along. The debate in the House Friday afternoon was instructive: There seems little doubt that a lot of energy being thrown into demolishing the ACA is pure, unresolved spite aimed at the president who signed it. Republican after Republican came to the podium to rail against Obamacare.

The rookie Republicans by far were the most entertaining. Jodey Arrington of Texas began by calling the ACA “Soviet-style central planning of our healthcare system,” which is hilariously wrong, but which must dazzle ’em back in Lubbock. Meanwhile, Matt Gaetz from Florida began his one-minute oration with a Shakespearean flourish, which brought to the proceedings all the gravitas of the average middle-school book report.

“Mr. Speaker, I come to bury Obamacare, not to praise it. The evil that men do lives on after them…”

Oh, just shut up, Fenwick. Honest to god.

The debate broke down along some easily distinguishable lines, although noted bag of hammers, Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, spent a lot of time talking about how the ACA was part of a plot against marriage. The Republicans threw around numbers and the Democrats told stories about people from their districts who’d been helped by the ACA. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, who was managing the floor for the Democrats, and whose amendment to repurpose the budget gimmick to pay for infrastructure improvements sank like a stone later in the afternoon, responded to the numbers by reading off how many people in the states represented by Republican speakers would lose their health care and their jobs, and how much money each state would lose over the next five years.

When the Republicans ventured onto the narrative turf of the Democrats, they mostly spoke about small businesses that they claimed had collapsed under the weight of the new law. But Lloyd Smucker, who represents a district in and around Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, had a different tale to tell.

Smucker talked about the case of two of his constituents, Tim and Phyllis Hollinger. Tim’s on Medicare. (Good luck, Tim! Paul Ryan’s got just the scam for you!) Meanwhile, Phyllis got her insurance through one of the exchanges. She makes, according to Smucker, $53,000 a year. Her policy costs more than $1000 a month and her deductible is $2700. Luckily, though, through the provisions of the ACA, Phyllis gets a subsidy that covers 35 percent of the cost. Good for you, Phyllis. That’s the way the law is supposed to work. That’s the Affordable part of the Affordable Care Act at work.

However, according to Congressman Smucker, the subsidy is the problem.

Phyllis receives a federal subsidy that covers 35% of that monthly cost. She takes pride in the fact that she’s never taken a government handout in her life. Now that she’s on Obamacare, the American taxpayers have to subsidize her healthcare. (Ed. Note: also yours, Congressman.) To Phyllis, that’s not right. To Phyllis, this is about her pride and she’s not asking for a lot. She’s simply asking that she have access to affordable healthcare that doesn’t require the American taxpayers to help her pay for it.

And that, not Meryl Streep, is how Donald Trump became president.

I have no idea whether or not Smucker is making this whole thing up, but I do know that, if and when the ACA is finally chloroformed, Phyllis’ pride better be convertible into gold or hard cash money because she’s going to need it. And, as an American taxpayer, I’d like to tell Phyllis not to worry. She’s good for it.

I mean, Jesus, who thinks like this—besides approximately 45 percent of American voters, that is? It’s one thing to make a political career out of calling people moochers, but it’s a vast distance from that to convincing people that they are somehow moochers themselves. You have to admit, the messaging against the ACA has had a remarkable market penetration among the people who need it the most. Let me get sick and die rather than have your help.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin watched how that messaging played out in the last campaign.

“They were very effective with a political message saying ‘We’re going to repeal and replace it.’ And then they won! They won the White House, the Supreme Court arguably, both chambers of the Congress, and now it appears to have been a fig leaf because now it looks like they’re going to unravel the whole health care system, not just the 20 million who benefitted directly from the Affordable Care Act, but those people with the private plans who are going to be facing lifetime caps, facing the pre-existing conditions. It’s confounding to me. They now have the message—we’re gonna repeal it and then we’ll replace it once you guys give us another kick at the can two years from now. They’re hoping the people are stupid.”

The project continues apace, however, and sometime in the next few months, Phyllis Hollinger and millions like her will be free of the guilt that comes from being healthy at the public expense. The cool breeze of freedom once again will blow across the fields and prairies, across the rivers and mountains, and through the doors of overcrowded emergency rooms. Feel the cool breeze.

Unless, of course, you have chronic asthma. Then you’re on your own, pal.

Doonesbury — Survival of the twittest.

Rest in peace, SLW.

SLW Resting Place 01-15-17

Friday, January 13, 2017

Wait, You Were Serious About That?

The Republicans have voted over 60 times to repeal Obamacare, knowing full well that it wouldn’t happen, but what would the Republicans be if they couldn’t fill the air with empty gestures?  But now that there’s the real possibility that it might happen…

House Republican leaders attempted to quell concerns of a skittish rank and file before a key vote Friday to begin unwinding the Affordable Care Act.

The assurances came after lawmakers across the GOP’s ideological divides sounded anxious notes this week about advancing legislation that would repeal Obamacare without firm plans for its replacement.

“We just want more specifics,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday. “We need to know what we’re going to replace it with.” Meadows said he was personally undecided on his vote Friday and that other caucus members were leaning toward no.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, said members of that caucus have “serious reservations” about starting the process without replacement plans spelled out. “We’d like to have this conversation prior to the repeal vote,” he said.

Those jitters hint at a rocky road ahead as Republicans start trying to fulfill a long-standing campaign promise. They have forced GOP leaders to reassure lawmakers that they will not move precipitously and open Republicans to charges they threw the health-care system into chaos.

So upwards of 15 million people could lose their health insurance without any plan in place to replace it with something better as promised by Trump.  (Note that he did not detail what that would entail; just that it would be “better.”)  If they don’t, then what?

All of a sudden “Repeal and Replace” is a lot harder to pull off than just some chant at a political rally.

And five will get you ten if the Republicans aren’t racking their brains to figure out how to blame all of this on Barack Obama.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

In The Dead Of The Night

Via the Washington Post:

The Senate voted 51 to 48 early Thursday morning to approve a budget resolution instructing House and Senate committees to begin work on legislation to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act. The House is expected to take up the legislation Friday.

Senate Democrats made a late-night show of resistance against gutting the Affordable Care Act by forcing Republicans to take politically charged votes against protecting Medicare, Medicaid and other health-care programs. The measure narrowly passed without the support of any Democrats.

The hours-long act of protest culminated in the early hours of Thursday when Democrats made a dramatic display of rising to speak out against the repeal measure as they cast their votes. The Democrats continued to record their opposition over their objections of Senate Republicans.

“Because there is no replace, I vote no,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) as she delivered her vote.

Here’s the nightmare scenario I see playing out: The Republicans whoop through a repeal of Obamacare much to the delight of their constituents who have railed against “socialism” for the last eight years.  Then they can’t figure out how to replace it because, well, the only way to do that is to put in place what they took out and just call it something else.  Fine.  But in the meantime you will have several million people who once had insurance going without and then people start to get sick without it or have no way to pay for the medical care they need and then the bills — and the bodies — start to pile up.

But hey, they got a cool hat that says Make America Great Again.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Reading

The Big Hack — David Remnick in The New Yorker.

Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s foreign minister, once remarked while on a trip to Berlin in the early days of the Cold War, “The trouble with free elections is that you never know how they will turn out.”

On the morning of November 9th, Molotov’s grandson, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Russian Duma’s foreign-affairs committee, announced to the parliament, “Three minutes ago, Hillary Clinton conceded defeat in the American Presidential elections. And just this second Donald Trump began his speech as President-elect.” The Duma members cheered and applauded.

In the days to come, there were more declarations of acid satisfaction among the Russian élite. Dmitri Kiselyov, the host of “News of the Week,” a popular current-affairs show on state-controlled television, gloated over Trump’s victory and Barack Obama’s inability to prevent it. Obama, he said, was a “eunuch.” Trump was an “alpha male”—and one who showed mercy to his vanquished rival. “Trump could have put the blonde in prison, as he’d threatened in the televised debates,” Kiselyov said on his show. “On the other hand, it’s nothing new. Trump has left blond women satisfied all his life.” Kiselyov further praised Trump because the concepts of democracy and human rights “are not in his lexicon.” In India, Turkey, Europe, and now the United States, he declared, “the liberal idea is in ruins.”

Vladimir Putin did not showboat, but he, too, made his satisfaction plain. His spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters that the similarity between Trump and Putin’s “conceptual approach to foreign policy” was “phenomenal.” Trump’s victory was the basis for Russia’s “moderate optimism”; now both sides could discuss how “to clear out the Augean stables in our bilateral relations.”

All of this is all the more alarming to recall now, in the light of the latest news: according to U.S. intelligence reports, Putin “ordered an influence campaign” to undermine Clinton and work with “a clear preference” to enhance Trump’s prospects. A classified version of this intelligence has now been delivered to both the President and the President-elect. Briefed in New York on Friday by the heads of the C.I.A., F.B.I., and N.S.A., Trump, who earlier in the day called the focus on Russian hacking “a political witch hunt,” finally allowed, if obliquely, that the Russians—and not the Chinese, not “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds”—might have hacked the e-mail accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. A declassified report concluded that Putin ordered a campaign of covert operations, from defamatory “fake news” articles about Clinton to the hack itself. Even as Trump seemed to shift his view of the source of the D.N.C. hack, he did not concede that the operation had helped his campaign. The declassified report, however, said that the C.I.A., F.B.I., and N.S.A. had uniformly “high confidence” that Putin ordered the operation in order to “undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” The N.S.A. had only “moderate confidence” on some details, while the C.I.A. and F.B.I. had “high confidence.” The differences, while vague, seem to be over the degree of Putin’s personal role. The declassified version of the report was unrevealing about how the agencies had come to their conclusions or collected their information.

One should continue to demand even more information from the U.S. government, and one can readily concede that Trump won his Electoral College victory for a variety of reasons, including the disaffection of the white working class in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio; the F.B.I. director’s two letters, late in the campaign, about Clinton’s e-mail server; and Clinton’s deficiencies and tactical errors as a candidate.

And yet how is it possible, if these intelligence reports are true, to count the 2016 Presidential election as unsullied? We are two weeks away from Trump’s Inauguration, and American intelligence agencies, flawed as they are, have declared, publicly and clearly, that they have convincing evidence that Russia, at its President’s direction, interfered in a Presidential election. Congress clearly has a job to do, but it is not alone. No matter how much it may offend Trump’s ego or his sense of self-possession, it will be his responsibility, his duty as President, to order the agencies at his command to dig even deeper, to provide as full a reckoning as possible. Will he resist Congress on this issue? Is he capable of questioning, in a sense, his own election? If he decides to refuse this duty, to just “move on,” as he likes to say, one will have to ask why.

Putin’s resentment of Clinton was always manifest; it is almost as severe as Trump’s. Putin saw the Clinton Administration of the nineties as having taken advantage of Russian weakness after the fall of the Soviet Union, twenty-five years ago. He viewed Hillary Clinton as a foreign-policy hawk who wanted regime change from Baghdad to Kiev to Moscow. In 2011, Putin, who lives in fear of spontaneous uprisings, events like the Arab Spring and the “color revolutions” in Ukraine and Georgia, accused Clinton of giving “a signal” to urge thousands of Russians to come out on the streets of Moscow to protest parliamentary-election “irregularities” and Putin’s intention to return once more to the Kremlin as President.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with Russian political experts, and all of them agreed that Putin was certainly pleased, at least initially, with Trump’s victory—and that satisfaction is reflected, too, on countless news and talk shows on television. These analysts added that Putin is undoubtedly cheered that Rex Tillerson, Trump’s appointment to head the State Department, was likely to leave behind American “sanctimony” about human rights and democracy and, following the pattern of his career at ExxonMobil, to concentrate on purely “transactional politics.” Some, however, wondered if Putin will remain enchanted with Trump once he encounters Trump’s inconsistencies, his alarming penchant for surprise pronouncements via Twitter.

Like many nationalist politicians in Europe, Trump has made plain his admiration for Putin, complimenting the Russian leader’s “great control over his country,” while at the same time failing to address the reality that Putin’s regime has instituted wholesale censorship of television, increased repressive measures on ordinary citizens, and unleashed his forces in Ukraine and Syria. (Putin, of course, discounts criticism of his policies as Western hypocrisy and points to everything from the invasion of Iraq, which he opposed, to the eastward expansion of NATO, which he sees as an aggressive act.)

Trump’s argument throughout the campaign, the reason for his compliments for Putin, he has said, is related to his stated desire to ease tensions between Russia and the United States and avoid the ultimate disaster, a nuclear confrontation. But what concerns many seasoned American analysts, politicians, and diplomats is that Trump is deluding himself about Putin’s intentions and refuses to see the nature of Russia’s nationalist, autocratic regime clearly. Trump has spoken critically of NATO and in support of European nationalist initiatives like Brexit to such a degree that, according to one Obama Administration official, “our allies are absolutely terrified and completely bewildered.”

Strobe Talbott, who was Bill Clinton’s closest adviser on Russia, told me recently that the hack of the D.N.C. and Putin’s other moves in Europe—including the annexation of Crimea, the Russian military presence in eastern Ukraine, and the financial support of nationalists like Marine Le Pen, of France—were part of a larger strategy intended to weaken the E.U. and NATO.

“I try to be careful about superlatives,” Talbott said, “but I cannot think, going back to the Soviet Union or since, that there’s been a Moscow-Kremlin-instigated gambit that was so spectacularly successful as what they have done with our democracy. All of those assets that they tried to use on us over the years were far less by comparison; this was like winning seventeen jackpots all at once.”

Not Gone Yet — David Dayen in The Nation on why Obamacare may be here to stay.

If you confine yourself to the Congressional Record, you would assume that Republicans methodically followed their game plan to dismantle Obamacare in the first week of the new session. The Senate passed the first phase of their repeal bill under a process called reconciliation, a budget procedure that requires only a simple majority in the Senate, without opportunity for filibuster. The Senate should wrap up in the coming weeks with a “vote-a-rama” (where Senators vote on all amendments consecutively for hours on end) and a final vote, and the finished product will move to the House, for likely passage days after Donald Trump’s inauguration.

But Republicans spent more time firming up the process of repeal than on the substance of the bill, which thus far includes no detail on what will be repealed or when, or what will eventually replace the current system. It’s like they practiced how to walk down the aisle over and over without knowing whether they will say “I do.”

This absence of detail has created a vacuum, filled with fear and infighting and jockeying for position. Hard-liners and moderates are consumed with the timeline for delay. But Tom Cotton became the first senator to publicly oppose repeal without a replacement, echoing the sentiments of others in private. Meanwhile, polling for “repeal and delay” is horrendous. And any replacement will have to contend with furious lobbying from insurers and major medical groups.

Furthermore, familiar politics are already tripping up the process. Republicans really want to eliminate Obamacare’s taxes on high-income households, insurance companies, and medical-device manufacturers; repeal should actually be seen as a tax-cut bill in the short-term. But Rand Paul’s concerns about the deficit led him to oppose the bill, and while he has failed to rally conservatives to his side thus far, money for a replacement will likely have to come from somewhere to appease the budget hawks. Separately, in a funhouse-mirror echo of the Stupak amendment, House Republicans want to include defunding of Planned Parenthood in the repeal, like the dry-run repeal bill did last year. But Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have threatened to fight such a measure, making Senate passage less likely. And that’s just the beginning of the knock-down, drag-out fights to come over every line of a replacement bill.

What this shows is that Obamacare really did alter the social contract in America. For all its faults—and they are considerable—Obamacare created an expectation of a definitive federal role in health-care markets. It’s untenable to simply return to a pre-2010 status quo; nobody outside of Iowa lunatic Steve King is calling for that. The public now expects that the government must provide assistance in making health-care markets work, in a way that they didn’t expect a decade ago. The public sees Obamacare as a benchmark, and any service below it will not be tolerated.

And Republicans are actively aiming low. While making public promises that nobody will lose their coverage from repeal, they have conceded that they cannot cover as many Americans as Obamacare with anything they would approve, preferring to use the term “universal access.” The one thing Republicans cannot overturn in reconciliation is the pre-existing condition exclusion, but they can allow insurers to price the stickiest applicants out of the market. This will necessarily create incentives to cherry-pick customers, and leave millions on the sidelines. The types of executive actions Trump could take for an “orderly resolution” of Obamacare all militate toward denying coverage by reducing mandatory insurance benefits and restricting rules on sign-ups.

This wasn’t really a problem in 2004 or 2006. George W. Bush didn’t have a standard to live up to on health care. He simply implemented versions of long-held Republican ideas like tort reform, health savings accounts, and state funding for high-risk pools—the exact same ideas being bandied about today, incidentally. They didn’t succeed in bringing down the uninsured rate or lowering costs. But it didn’t matter. There was no comparison point.

Now Obamacare has become that comparison point. For all the Republican talk of it being a failed experiment in government-run health care, it actually succeeded in institutionalizing a federal role for more than just children, the poor, and the elderly. This is why Bill Kristol famously wrote that memo in the 1990s urging Republicans to fight tooth and nail against Bill Clinton’s health-care reform, because it “would guarantee and likely make permanent an unprecedented federal intrusion into and disruption of the American economy.” Though Obamacare has never achieved the high approval ratings that would seemingly usher in such a guarantee, it did solidify the concept that federal intrusion is necessary. We’re not likely to go back.

Is Obamacare the perfect manifestation of that federal role? No. The subsidies are inadequate and the deductibles are too high, and the combination of consolidation in insurance markets and companies leaving the exchanges has removed the choice and competition thought to be the linchpin to bring down costs. Medicaid expansion has worked well where it has been taken up, but the exchanges are running on fumes. Nobody in the Democratic presidential primary argued for keeping the system the same; the choice was between minor or radical overhaul. Allowing customers to buy into Medicare, using all-payer rate setting to control provider costs, and federalizing Medicaid should be ideas returning to the table if and when Republican policies prove inadequate.

The debate over health care for the next decade will feature both sides trying to live up to a promise made with the American people in 2008. There are a panoply of ideas on how to extend insurance coverage to make it both affordable and useful. The party in power is scrambling to come up with ideas they can live with. The party out of power is fighting among themselves over which ideas will work best. But the biggest political risk lies in going backwards. That’s a new reality in health care that can be exploited.

Over and Out — Garrison Keillor punches out.

So he won. The nation takes a deep breath. Raw ego and proud illiteracy have won out and a severely learning-disabled man with a real character problem will be president. We are so exhausted from thinking about this election, millions of people will take up leaf-raking and garage cleaning with intense pleasure. We liberal elitists are wrecks. The Trumpers had a whale of a good time, waving their signs, jeering at the media, beating up protesters, chanting “Lock her up” — we elitists just stood and clapped. Nobody chanted “Stronger Together.” It just doesn’t chant.

The Trumpers never expected their guy to actually win the thing, and that’s their problem now. They only wanted to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane T-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls. It was pleasure enough for them just to know that they were driving us wild with dismay — by “us,” I mean librarians, children’s authors, yoga practitioners, Unitarians, birdwatchers, people who make their own pasta, opera goers, the grammar police, people who keep books on their shelves, that bunch. The Trumpers exulted in knowing we were tearing our hair out. They had our number, like a bratty kid who knows exactly how to make you grit your teeth and froth at the mouth.

To all the patronizing b.s. we’ve read about Trump expressing the white working class’s displacement and loss of the American Dream, I say, “Feh!” — go put your head under cold water. Resentment is no excuse for bald-faced stupidity. America is still the land where the waitress’ kids can grow up to become physicists and novelists and pediatricians, but it helps a lot if the waitress and her husband encourage good habits and the ambition to use your God-given talents and the kids aren’t plugged into electronics day and night. Whooping it up for the candidate of cruelty and ignorance does less than nothing for your kids.

We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids and we Democrats can go for a long brisk walk and smell the roses.

I like Republicans. I used to spend Sunday afternoons with a bunch of them, drinking Scotch and soda and trying to care about NFL football. It was fun. I tried to think like them. (Life is what you make it. People are people. When the going gets tough, tough noogies.) But I came back to liberal elitism.

Don’t be cruel. Elvis said it and it’s true. We all experienced cruelty back in our playground days, boys who beat up on the timid, girls who made fun of the homely and naive, and most of us, to our shame, went along with it, afraid to defend the victims lest we become one of them. But by your 20s, you should be done with cruelty. Mr. Trump was the cruelest candidate since George Wallace. How he won on fear and bile is for political pathologists to study. The country is already tired of his noise, even his own voters. He is likely to become the most intensely disliked president since Hoover. His children will carry the burden of his name. He will never be happy in his own skin. But the damage he will do to our country — who knows? His supporters voted for change, and boy, are they going to get it.

Back to real life. I went up to my hometown the other day and ran into my gym teacher, Stan Nelson, looking good at 96. He commanded a landing craft at Normandy on June 6, 1944, and never said a word about it back then, just made us do chin-ups whether we wanted to or not. I saw my biology teacher Lyle Bradley, a Marine pilot in the Korean War, still going birdwatching in his 90s. I was not a good student then, but I am studying both of them now. They have seen it all and are still optimistic. The past year of politics has taught us absolutely nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. The future is scary. Let the uneducated have their day. I am now going to pay more attention to teachers.

Easy for a rich white straight man to say.  As for the rest of us…

Doonesbury — Flattery will get you somewhere.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Get Help

My family is dealing with the loss of a member of our immediate family due to depression.  I will not go into the details but please be aware of the fact that it is a disease like any other and it has to be treated as such.  Just as diabetes afflicts the pancreas, depression afflicts the brain and like any chronic illness it can be treated and managed.  If not, it can kill.

If you or someone you know has depression, seek help through your medical professional.  Talk to your family about it.  Don’t expect a miracle cure or just to “snap out of it.”  No one should have to suffer with a treatable illness due to shame or misunderstanding, and no family should have to deal with the aftermath.

Please.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Someone’s Going To Emergency

I wrote earlier about people who willingly vote against their own self-interest because of their fear of “something out there” such as affordable health care is going to ruin their lives.  Here’s a perfect example via Vox:

CORBIN, Kentucky — Kathy Oller is so committed to her job signing up fellow Kentuckians for Obamacare that last Halloween, she dressed up as a cat, set up a booth at a trick-or-treat event, and urged people to get on the rolls. She’s enrolled so many people in the past three years that she long ago lost count.

“Must be somewhere in the thousands,” she said to me one morning at a local buffet restaurant where she’d just finished an enrollment event with the staff.

The health care law has helped lots of people in Whitley County, where Oller works. The uninsured rate has fallen from 25 percent in 2013 to 10 percent today, according to data from the nonprofit Enroll America. Overall, Kentucky is now tied with West Virginia for the biggest increase in health coverage.

But Obamacare’s success in Whitley County and across Kentucky hasn’t translated into political support for the law. In fact, 82 percent of Whitley voters supported Donald Trump in the presidential election, even though he promised to repeal it.

Oller voted for Trump too.

“I found with Trump, he says a lot of stuff,” she said. “I just think all politicians promise you everything and then we’ll see. It’s like when you get married — ‘Oh, honey, I won’t do this, oh, honey, I won’t do that.’”

I spent last week in southeastern Kentucky talking to Obamacare enrollees, all of whom supported Trump in the election, trying to understand how the health care law factored into their decisions.

Many expressed frustration that Obamacare plans cost way too much, that premiums and deductibles had spiraled out of control. And part of their anger was wrapped up in the idea that other people were getting even better, even cheaper benefits — and those other people did not deserve the help.

There was a persistent belief that Trump would fix these problems and make Obamacare work better. I kept hearing informed voters, who had watched the election closely, say they did hear the promise of repeal but simply felt Trump couldn’t repeal a law that had done so much good for them. In fact, some of the people I talked to hope that one of the more divisive pieces of the law — Medicaid expansion — might become even more robust, offering more of the working poor a chance at the same coverage the very poor receive.

So these people who have been presented with irrefutable evidence that Trump lies about everything from the size of his hands to the size of his fortunes; who can’t keep a story straight sometimes within one sentence and who has promised them the moon and everything else are sure that he won’t follow through on his promise to repeal Obamacare and might even make it better while at the same time kicking the “welfare queens” to the curb.

It’s really hard to muster up any sympathy for these people.  Yes, of course it will be very tough on them when the Republicans knock them off their insurance and privatize Medicare so that they’re left holding the bag on everything from routine tests like mammograms to emergency care.  But they had a good thing going and they willingly voted for the guy who said he’ll take it away because he’s white and he’s not really gonna do it, right?

Here’s a lesson they teach you at the poker table: If you can’t spot the mark at the table, you’re the mark.

Monday, December 12, 2016